Sunday, March 3, 2013
Bill O'Reilly calls pol a "villain" for opposing Jessica's Flaw
Political accusations fly after Colorado's "Jessica's Law" dies
POSTED: 02/26/2013 08:28:19 AM MST
UPDATED: 02/26/2013 11:41:39 PM MSTBy Lynn Bartels
The Denver Post
The death of a bill dealing with sexual predators who target kids has become a rallying cry for Republicans, who say their legislation would do more to make Colorado safe than gun bills passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature.
But Republicans aren't getting any getting support from Dave Kopel of the Independence Institute, an expert on Second Amendment issues who has studied prison sentences. He's critical of both the gun bills and the Republican measure known as "Jessica's Law."
"I don't think either of those are constructive steps toward public safety," he said.
And in a rare moment of unity, the Colorado District Attorneys' Council, Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Colorado Office of the Public Defender all agree Jessica's Law isn't necessary.
But Republicans have turned to social media and conservative talk shows to lament its assignment to the House's so-called "kill committee."
"You're not crazy there. Why aren't folks getting more upset about this?" Fox News' Bill O'Reilly asked the bill sponsor, Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, during his show Friday.
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino — described by O'Reilly as a "villain" — said not a single Coloradan testified in favor of Jessica's Law.
"What shocks me is for the two years Republicans had the majority, they didn't introduce this bill," said Ferrandino, a Denver Democrat who took over the speaker's post after Republicans lost the majority in the 2012 election. "This is all about politics and not good policy."
A nearly identical bill that died in 2009 in the Democratic-controlled legislature was used in attack ads against Democrats in the 2010 election.
Ferrandino added that after the O'Reilly show aired, he received nasty e-mails, including one that he said was from a viewer telling him he hoped Ferrandino's 14-month-old foster daughter gets raped.
House Bill 1149would have imposed a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years before parole on an offender who commits a sexual assault against a child.
It is named for Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-oldwho was sexually assaulted and buried alive in Florida in 2005 by a career criminal who previously had been convicted of exposing himself to a 5-year-old girl. Her father came to Colorado from Florida to urge passage of the bill.
Szabo noted that Colorado is one of only five states that hasn't adopted some version of the law, and her bill would have been a tool prosecutors could have used when appropriate.
But Laurie Rose Kepros, the director of Sexual Offense Defense for the public defenders office, said Colorado's complicated and nuanced sentencing laws "already go beyond what Jessica's Law mandates."
"Jessica's Law is a 25-year sentence, and we have life sentences for all of the crimes covered under the bill," she said.
Both Szabo and the House minority leader, Republican Mark Waller of Colorado Springs, are upset that the bill was sent to the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, best known as the committee where the majority party sends minority bills to die. Her bill died Feb. 13 on a party-line vote.
"That bill should have gone to the Judiciary Committee," Waller said. "I don't think State Affairs is the place to have a discussion about sentencing laws."
Waller said Ferrandino wanted to protect four Democrats on the Judiciary Committee who are in swing districts: Daniel Kagan of Cherry Hills Village, Pete Lee of Colorado Springs, Mike McLachlan of Durango and Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood.
Ferrandino pointed out that two attorneys sit on State Affairs, and one of them, Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, is a prosecutor.