A CALL TO ACTION
Bill to Require Dangerousness Hearing In Sex Assault Cases
On December 16, 2009, I filed legislation to require judges to evaluate the dangerousness of persons charged with sex offenses against children before considering whether to release those defendants on bail.
I think we were all shocked and disgusted to hear news of the tragic case involving Joseph H. Gardner of Kingston. Gardner is alleged to have raped a 3-year-old girl while her mother was asleep in the same house. The disgusting nature of this crime is made even more horrific by the realization that the rape allegedly occurred while Gardner was free on bail and awaiting trial for the alleged rape of another 6-year-old child this past summer. Gardner was set free in October after posting just $10,000 bail on the first case, and there was no dangerousness hearing held prior to his release.
Under current law, prosecutors have the ability to request a dangerousness hearing prior to bail being set in certain serious criminal cases. However, there is no guarantee that such a hearing will be requested or held.
The legislation I filed changes this situation by requiring the court to hold a dangerousness hearing in any case where there is an allegation of a sex offense involving a child, including child rape.
I believe we need to add an extra layer of protection and accountability in cases where there is an alleged sex crime against a child. This is a responsible measure to make sure that dangerous sex offenders don’t fall through the cracks and get set free while they await trial, as apparently happened in the Kingston case. At the same time, the bill respects judicial discretion in such cases.
The text of the legislation follows below. The bill is awaiting the assignment of a docket number by the House Clerk.
Unfortunately, many bills like this end up getting referred to the House Rules Committee and they sit there without further action being taken. I believe we need there to be action taken on this bill soon.
I sent a letter to House and Senate leaders and to the Governor on December 30, 2009 urging passage of this bill as soon as possible. But there's more that needs to be done to encourage action.
If you support passage of this bill, I urge you to contact House Speaker Robert DeLeo's office at (617) 722-2500 to ask him to have the bill released from the Rules Committee and scheduled for a public hearing as soon as possible.
Thank you for your consideration.
Text of the Bill
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
The first paragraph of subsection (4) of section 58A of chapter 276 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the first sentence thereof and inserting in place thereof the following sentence:-
When a person is held under arrest for an offense listed in subsection (1) and upon a motion by the commonwealth, or whenever a person is held under arrest for a sex offense involving a child as defined in section 178C of chapter 6, the judge shall hold a hearing to determine whether conditions of release will reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the community.