Top California Dem defends controversial no vote on bill to increase penalties for sexual assault

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A powerful California Democrat who recently helped kill a Republican-backed state bill that would’ve increased criminal penalties for those found guilty of various forms of sexual assault, including rape, explained his decision amid widespread backlash for opposing the measure.

Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, chair of the California Assembly’s Public Safety Committee, along with the rest of the panel’s Democrats voted last week against Bill 229, which would classify domestic violence, human trafficking, and several sex offenses as a violent crime in the state.

As a result, the bill failed to make it out of committee, despite the committee’s two Republicans voting in support of the legislation.

California Assembly Member Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat, speaking during the Los Angeles County Democratic Party election night drive-in watch party at the LA Zoo parking lot on Nov. 3, 2020. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


“The bill was broad recategorizing non-violent crimes, and even misdemeanors, as violent felony acts [sic],” Jones-Sawyer told Fox News Digital. “This is another attempt to revive a version of the three-strikes mentality of mass incarceration, which was a failed policy. We need to look at ways to reform our criminal justice system while advocating for diversion and rehabilitative programs that end crime cycles of all categories.”

Under California law, committing a “violent felony” enhances the punishment for crimes in accordance with the state’s Three Strikes Law, which significantly increases the prison sentences of people convicted of felonies who have been previously convicted of a violent or serious felony. For those already found guilty of two violent or serious felony offenses, a third conviction necessitates a prison sentence of 25 years to life.

The legislation would expand the crimes that are considered violent felonies, thereby increasing the punishments for those convicted of such crimes. Among the several crimes listed are domestic violence, human trafficking, and a host of sex crimes such as rape of an unconscious or incapacitated person. Under current law, human trafficking, for example, is defined as a non-serious and non-violent crime.

The successful effort to kill the bill received backlash, both in the media and online.

“This week, CA Democrats killed a GOP bill to increase penalties for domestic violence, human trafficking & other sex crimes. Moments later, they approved a Dem bill to impose sentence enhancements on theft of property above $275k,” tweeted Emily Hoeven, a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. “If Dems aren’t going to show ideological consistency in their votes, they owe it to us to allow a wider swath of ideas to be robustly debated. Their party, which controls a legislative supermajority, has not come close to solving CA’s problems on its own.”

Hoeven was referring to the fact that shortly after Democrats on the Public Safety Committee killed Assembly Bill 229, they passed a separate measure to enhance sentences for people convicted of taking, damaging, or destroying property worth more than $275,000.

“Doesn’t really make sense to me why Capitol Democrats don’t feel like domestic violence and human trafficking should be a violent crime, but damaging property is worthy of harsher penalties,” Assembly Member Joe Patterson, the Republican who introduced AB229, told Fox News Digital last week. “Their priorities are inconsistent at best.”

Ana Fuentes, a former photographer for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Associated Press, retweeted Hoeven’s comments, writing a bill to increase penalties for violent offenders deserved more attention.

“The bill deserved serious consideration — not only b/c it would amend Calif penal code to classify domestic violence as the violent crime that it is, but also b/c it could help the state reduce mass shootings, which research shows are overwhelmingly committed by domestic abusers,” she tweeted, quoting from Hoeven’s column.

“According to [California Democrats,] rape is not a violent act,” added George Andrews, chief of staff to the California Assembly Republican Caucus. “Victims don’t matter & prison time is worthless/racist. Let’s just hand out parking tickets to criminals who commit sexual assault because incarceration hurts feelings.”

Republican Assembly Member Tom Lackey similarly slammed Democrats on the committee for not agreeing to classify sexual assault as a violent crime.

“I am disgusted to announce that [AB229], a measure to make sexual assault a violent felony, failed on a party-line vote in the #CALeg Assembly Public Safety Committee,” tweeted Republican Assembly Member Tom Lackey. “Please explain to me why isn’t rape violent in California?”

In his comments to Fox News Digital, Jones-Sawyer echoed the views he outlined at last week’s committee hearing.

“You’re trying to say, ‘If we go back to three strikes, we will stop all crime,'” he told Patterson. “We’ve already proven that doesn’t work.”

Source: Fox News

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