Governor Bobby Jindal joined law enforcement officials and area legislators at the Rapides Parish Courthouse today in Alexandria to highlight new legislative priorities to crack down on sexual predators in the next legislative session. The Governor highlighted five legislative priority areas that will strengthen the ability of law enforcement to track down and punish monsters that prey on children.
Governor Jindal said, "To date, many of our efforts to crack down on sex offenders have been aimed at making streets, schools and homes safer for our children. But, we know the newest front in our battle to protect children has now shifted to the virtual world of the Internet. While we have passed some important laws already to keep our kids safe from those who prey on them online, the internet is an ever-changing area that demands our tactics and our laws evolve quickly to stay ahead of sex predators.
"We know the ever-advancing technology online, coupled with the perception of anonymity, create an environment that can be as dangerous to children as anything they could encounter on the street. Our package to crack down on sex predators this year attacks these monsters right where they are hiding today -- online. Our legislation this year will work to peel away the layers of anonymity associated with child sex-related crimes on the internet and punish offenders so we are creating a safer environment for our children in our communities -- and online.
"I want the message to the monsters that prey on our innocent children to be very clear, we will track you down, we will root you out, we will find you online -- and when we do we will punish you with every tool we have. We will take away your freedom, your possessions, we will label you as a sex offender and we will do everything we can to keep you away from children."
In addition to these new initiatives, Governor Jindal announced that the budget he proposed for the upcoming fiscal year includes a funding increase of $516,789 to support on-line predator initiatives in the Internet Crimes Against Children unit at the Attorney General's office.
State Police Superintendent Col. Michael Edmonson said, "The greatest gift that we have is our children. I firmly believe that if you are not a part of your child's life, someone else will be. That someone may be one of the hundreds of child predators in Louisiana that we identified last year. It is so important that we protect them from the dangers that lurk on the other side of their computers. Technology has allowed these individuals to come into our homes without even opening the door. With each passing day and with every single case we work, it is becoming more evident how prevalent this problem is in Louisiana. We have worked diligently with our partners at the Attorney General's Office, the Sheriff's Offices and the City Police Departments and we will continue to find these dangerous criminals and get them off of our streets and away from our children. The men and women of the Louisiana State Police will not rest until each and every one of these sexual predators are arrested and brought to justice. We owe this to our citizens and more importantly, we owe it to our children."
Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association Hal Turner said, "With stronger penalties and more tools for law enforcement officials -- this set of bills will make it clear to any sex offender that Louisiana means business when it comes to protecting our families. We're excited to support this legislation and look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to make sure we get them passed."
Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association Pete Adams said, "We appreciate the Governor's office working with us in advance to draft legislation which provides our DAs with additional options for prosecuting sex crimes."
Chairman of the Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice Rep. Ernest Wooton said, "If it wasn't clear already, it should be now -- Louisiana is not a good place to be a sex offender. These bills were drafted with law enforcement and prosecutors in mind, and will help them identify, arrest, and prosecute these guys and get them off the streets and away from our families."
Background on the five legislative priority areas for cracking down on sex offenders that Governor Jindal announced in Shreveport today is included below:
1. Revise Existing Crime of "Pornography Involving Juveniles" To Better Define and Provide Stronger Sentencing Options for Distribution and Production of Pornography
Due to the evolution of technology, State Police is seeing more and more suspects who are distributing images of child pornography through Peer-to-Peer file sharing and other more sophisticated modes of distribution.
Governor Jindal said, "Through this kind of technology, people who have illegal images are able to easily browse each other's computers with perceived anonymity. They basically open up their computers so they can trade illicit material as easily as they would share a music file. By opening these cyberspace doors to one another, these individuals are no longer simply "possessing' child pornography; they are "distributing' it."
The penalty should be stronger than the 2 to 10 year sentence that is currently provided for in the law for possession. This bill will give prosecutors additional options for charging individuals with distribution and production of pornography, which will carry higher sentences of 5 to 10 years for distribution; and 10 to 20 years for production. Finally, this bill will create a presumption that possession of child pornography, coupled with file sharing technology or software, is evidence of intent to distribute, which will further help prosecutors of these awful crimes against our children.
This bill will be authored by Rep. Kirk Talbot.
2. Create An Additional Sentence When The Crime of "Solicitation of a Minor by Computer" Results in Sexual Conduct
Using the internet today, a minor can be totally misled as to a perpetrator's age and they can be lured into an extended virtual conversation that builds an inappropriate relationship over a period of time.
The Governor said this type of behavior can be the most dangerous kind because there is no ability for the victim to use his or her own senses to assess the situation. It's currently a crime to use various forms of electronic communication to solicit a minor -- to participate or watch sexual conduct when the perpetrator is 17 or older and is greater than two years older than the victim. The penalty is 5 to 10 years when no sexual contact is made and there is only solicitation.
This bill will provide a penalty option between 7 to 10 years when the computer-aided solicitation results in actual sexual conduct when the age difference between the perpetrator and the victim is greater than five years. This will provide a stronger penalty option than the current felony carnal knowledge statute, and prosecutors can use this statute when an individual has sexual contact with a victim by first soliciting them online.
Governor Jindal said, "Strengthening this sentence is so important because it is another way for us to let these predators know that they will be severely punished for lying to children and luring them into an illicit sexual relationship. These crimes against our children are the worst crimes imaginable and we are continuing to do everything in our power to prevent every crime we can -- and punish every crime that occurs to the fullest extent."
This bill will be authored by Rep. Ernest Wooton.
3. Create Administrative Subpoena Authority for State Police, the Attorney General and Sheriffs to Obtain Certain Electronic Identification Information About Individuals Engaged in Computer Related Sex Crimes Involving Children
During the course of an investigation today, authorities may discover an online identifier or IP address known to be downloading child pornography or they may discover a screen name suspected of having inappropriate contact with minors.
The Governor said timing is very important at this point because the lives of innocent children may be at risk. Currently, in a child exploitation investigation, an officer must make a request for a subpoena to a third party in order to discover information like the kind of internet service they are using, the date the service was activated, any IP addresses or names associated with the account, screen names or billing information. In order to get this information, the investigator has to locate a district attorney, get the subpoena drafted or signed, and then locate a judge to sign off on it.
Governor Jindal said, "The administrative time associated with these steps in the investigation is unacceptable when the lives of innocent children hang in the balance. This year, we will work to give limited subpoena authority to investigators in child exploitation cases so an investigator can quickly generate an administrative subpoena on departmental letterhead and issue it to the Internet Service Provider to further the investigation. This change in the law will be a huge help in decreasing the amount of time that a child is potentially being victimized by a sex offender while authorities work to bring them to justice."
This bill will be authored by Rep. Joseph Lopinto.
4. Allow for The Forfeiture of Property Used in The Commission of Certain Sex Crimes so Law Enforcement Can Use The Property as a Source of Revenue to Continue The Fight Against These Horrible Crimes
Currently, after an individual is convicted of a sex crime, the investigating, arresting and prosecuting agencies are left with property that cannot really be utilized and will not be returned. In some cases, the agency has to get a destroy order for the property.
With this change in law, agencies can use the seized property as a source of revenue to continue the fight against these sex crimes. Specifically, the legislation will allow a court, upon a guilty ruling, to order that the personal property used by the offender at the time of the offense be seized and impounded. The district attorney will then be able to authorize the public sale or auction of the property.
Crimes linked to this option will include cyberstalking, human trafficking, trafficking of children for sexual purposes, felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile, computer-aided solicitation of a minor, indecent behavior with juveniles, pornography involving juveniles, molestation of a juvenile and enticing persons into prostitution.
Governor Jindal said, "This law will not only allow the investigating, arresting and prosecuting agencies to utilize the seized property as a source of revenue in the fight against these type of crimes, but it will also send a message to individuals committing these crimes that their freedom and their resources will be taken from them when they commit these horrible crimes. We're sending a message to these monsters that they will not only lose their freedom for committing these crimes against our children, they will lose their property -- the computer they used, the car that they used and anything that aided them in the crime."
This bill will be authored by Sen. Danny Martiny.
5. Create A "Habitual Sexual Offender" Sentencing Option Under The Current Habitual Offender Sex Statute
Currently, there is a habitual offender law applicable to people who commit multiple felonies. However, the existing habitual offender felony law does not specifically take into account sexual offenses until third or fourth offenses are considered. Specifically, if an offender is charged under the new "habitual sex offender law" after conviction of a first and second felony sex offense, the offender will be punished by no less than two-thirds of the longest possible sentence for conviction of the second felony and up to three times the longest possible sentence.
For example, if an individual previously convicted of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile serves time and then subsequently molests a juvenile that he is supposed to be watching or has control over -- this offender can now be charged as a "habitual sex offender" and face a more severe penalty.
The prior crimes of Gerald J. Bordelon -- who was recently executed at Angola for the first-degree murder, kidnapping, and molestation of his 12-year-old stepdaughter -- are a perfect example of who would be a prime candidate for punishment under this new law.
Governor Jindal said, "Once an offender has proven to be a threat to the well-being of our children, we must move quickly to lock them up and keep them off the streets. Too often these sexual predators are repeat offenders who not only go on to take the innocence of more children, but also end up taking their lives."
The penalty for molestation of a 13 to 17-year-old that an offender has control over or custody of is five to 25 years. If found guilty, this perpetrator can be billed as a habitual offender. If found to be a habitual sex offender, they would then receive a higher penalty of potentially up to 75 years.
This bill will be authored by Rep. Jonathan Perry.
Over the past two years, Governor Jindal worked with the Legislature to pass some of the toughest penalties in the history of the state to crack down on sexual predators and increase penalties for sexual offenses. These laws include:
* Authorizing the chemical castration for certain sex offenses
* Authorizing lifetime registration for sex offenders
* Prohibiting a sex offender from wearing a mask, hood, or disguise during holiday events and from distributing candy or other gifts to minors
* Doubling the minimum sentence for computer-aided solicitation of a minor
* Increasing the minimum sentence for molesting a juvenile by five-fold
* Consolidating the sex offender database so sheriffs, state police and local law enforcement officials can all share information
* Allowing for internet sites like Facebook and Myspace to link up with Louisiana's Sex Predator Database to ensure that offenders aren't setting up profiles to prey on children
* Closing a loophole to prohibit the use of emails or text messages to establish other forms of communications in order to persuade, induce, or entice a minor to engage or participate in sexual conduct
* Imposing penalties for sex offenders who fail to properly submit to electronic monitoring
* Strengthening restrictions on where sex offenders can work
* Strengthening reporting requirements on sex offenders who volunteer for activities involving children
* Criminalizing the hijacking of wireless routers for the purpose of downloading, uploading, or selling child pornography
* Authorizing DSS to revoke licenses from child care facilities for alleged crimes including the presence of a sexual offender