California Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher’s fight for harsher penalties for violent child molesters is coming closer to fruition as Chelsea’s Law has passed unanimously through the Assembly Public Safety Commission and has also received a strong push from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The proposed law is named for Chelsea King, 17, who was raped and strangled while out jogging in a park in the San Diego area; her parents helped in the drafting of the law.
John Albert Gardner III, 31, a convicted sex offender, has pleaded guilty to her murder as well as to the murder of 14-year-old Amber Dubois of Escondido; his expected sentence is two life terms without the possibility of parole.
Gardner had been convicted of molesting a 13-year-old girl in 2000, served five years in prison, then was on parole for another three years; during that time, he violated his parole several times, including by living too close to a school, but was not sent back to prison.
Assembly Bill 1844 aims to close up the such “holes” in the system, as Chelsea’s father Brent King called what happened in his daughter’s situation.
If passed, Chelsea’s Law would do the following:
- Permit judges to sentence violent sex offenders to life sentences without parole for even the first offense (the current sentence for a first sex offense against a minor is 15 to 25 years’ incarceration);
- Put certain offenders on lifetime parole after their release from prison and use GPS to monitor their movements;
- Allow judges to revoke parole of certain offenders if they are found in a park where children go without prior permission;
- Allow for harsher penalties for other sex crimes against children based on the victim’s age and extent of injury.
The next step for Chelsea’s Law is the Assembly Appropriations Committee for cost analysis, but notably, support for the legislation has been overwhelming on both sides of the political aisle. Fletcher and Schwarzenegger are Republicans but the Assembly Public Safety Commission is largely made up of Democrats.