Source: Assembly Republican Press Release -
The Assembly Judiciary Committee today released bipartisan legislation known as the “Jessica Lunsford Act” which increases the criminal penalties on those who commit sex crimes against minors.
The bill, A-892, is sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy F. Muñoz, and establishes a sentence of between 25 years and life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault of a victim less than 13 years old. The bill also establishes a period of parole ineligibility of at least 25 years for a person convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a victim less than 13 years old. In addition, if a victim is unable to testify at trial, a prosecutor would be permitted to negotiate a plea agreement for a prison term of at least 15 years without parole.
“Pedophiles who prey on innocent victims will now face stronger penalties that will help protect the most vulnerable in our society – our children,” said Muñoz, R-Union, Morris and Somerset. “Robbing our youth of their innocence has a tremendous impact on their physical, psychological and emotional state, and takes a toll on their families and loved ones as well. This kind of larceny must result in severe punishment that sends a message of how much we value young people and that such detestable actions will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
The legislation was initially sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Muñoz in 2005 and has received committee approvals in prior legislative sessions. It finally received unanimous approval by the General Assembly in Feb. 2013.
After Assemblyman Muñoz passed away in March 2009, he was succeeded by his wife, Nancy F. Muñoz, who has been the primary sponsor of the legislation ever since, including the current bill.
“My husband was intent on passing this important legislation and I am proud to continue the effort,” stated Muñoz. “The support and perseverance of all the sponsors is testimony to the importance of the Jessica Lunsford Act.”
This bill is named after Jessica Lunsford, who was a nine-year-old Florida resident and was kidnapped, raped, and murdered by a registered sex offender, John Couey. Couey received the death penalty in August 2007, but died in federal prison in September 2009. Today is the ninth anniversary of Jessica’s kidnapping.
Eric Muñoz introduced the original bill after learning the details of Jessica Lunsford’s death and he invited Mr. Lunsford to New Jersey in 2005 to advocate for the legislation. Assemblywoman Muñoz met with Mr. Lunsford in New Jersey in March 2011 and June 2012 to again speak about his support for the “Jessica Lunsford Act.” Lunsford has been an ardent supporter of the “Jessica Lunsford Act” across the country and is working with federal lawmakers on a national “Jessica Lunsford Act.”
Muñoz’ Assembly colleagues, Jerry Green, Mary Pat Angelini and Alison McHose are other primary sponsors of the legislation as well as 40 additional co-sponsors.