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'Audrie's Law' clears state Senate committee

(Audrie Pott Foundation/Facebook)
April 29, 2014 7:02:00 PM PDT
A sexual assault bill inspired by the case of a Bay Area high school student passed its first test Tuesday, with a state Senate Public Safety Committee passing the measure.

Current state law gave prosecutors no choice but to try Audrie Pott's three classmates in juvenile court where their identities and the punishment were kept secret.

A new bill by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, to be known as Audire's Law, will specify that sexual assault of a defenseless victim must go to open, adult court. Defenseless is defined as intoxicated, unconscious or mentally disabled.

"We believe that if the identity of the sexual offenders and their sentence is exposed, it would deter future incidents and put the community on alert to monitor the assailants' behavior and keep other students safe," Audrie's mother Sheila Pott said.

Conviction could lead to prison time instead of the 30-45 days in juvenile hall the teens received in the Pott case. The use of social media to disseminate sexually explicit photos would also be tried in adult court.

"The time has come to pull these predator perpetrators out of the shadows and make the juvenile justice system live up to its promise to protect their victims," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said.

Rosen says that's the only way to send a message to minors about the consequences of rape or cyberbullying.

"We're trying to deter some of this conduct, and we're trying to deter the idea that boys will be boys, or this is a rite of passage," Rosen said. "Rape is not a rite of passage."

Beall says California law hasn't kept up with social media and new crimes.

At the Bill Wilson Center, a Santa Clara youth counseling and crisis agency, there is concern the bill could set a precedent for juvenile cases

"Is every crime the same? No, I don't think so, and I wouldn't say that the result or the penalty for that needs to be the same in every case," center spokesperson Pilar Furlong said.

The bill goes now to two committees in the state legislature. If passed, it could take effect starting Jan. 1.


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