Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Bob-O-Meter

Increase penalty for sexual battery of children

McDonnell will elevate sexual battery, when the crime is committed by force or where the offender is an adult and the victim is three years younger, to a Class 6 felony.


Updates

No action

Bob McDonnell, during his campaign for governor, laid out a series of initiatives to protect children from sex offenders.

He pledged, in an August 2009 policy paper, "McDonnell will elevate sexual battery, when the crime is committed by force or where the offender is an adult and the victim is three years (or more) younger to a class 6 felony," his campaign said in an August 2009 news release.

Sexual battery, which involves sexually touching a victim by force, ruse or intimidation, is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable up to a year in jail. Boosting it to a class 6 felony would increase the maximum penalty to five years in prison.

When we last checked on the status of this promise a year ago, a McDonnell spokesman said the governor was considering putting the sexual battery bill before the General Assembly in early 2013, when it held the last complete legislative session of McDonnell's term. Because the administration would not commit to the bill, we rated governor's pledge as Stalled.

The update is that McDonnell's promised bill was never introduced.

Taylor Keeney, a spokeswoman for McDonnell, said tight state finances have prevented the governor from seeking the increased penalty.  She pointed to an October 2012 report by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission that said boosting all sexual battery offenses to class 6 felonies would cost $5.1 million over six years to house additional inmates.

Keeney wrote in an email, "Given a number of other priorities in (McDonnell's) December 2012 budget submission, including increasing the penalty for sexual molestation over the Internet, increasing penalties for human trafficking, and improving the Virginia Sex Offender Registry (along with numerous other public safety initiatives), he was unable to include funding for this proposal."

She added that McDonnell "will consider including funding for this initiative" in a final two-year budget he will propose to the General Assembly in December.

But even if McDonnell includes the money in his budget proposal, he won't be around to see his promise through. McDonnell's term expires on Jan. 11, 2014 --  three days into next year's General Assembly session. That's about two months before the legislature will be in a position to approve a budget that will fall under the purview of Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe.

Time has run out on McDonnell's ability to deliver this pledge. We rate it a Promise Broken.

Sources:

Bob McDonnell for Governor, "McDonnell unveils public safety plan," August, 2009.

E-mails from Taylor Keeney, spokeswoman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, 2013.

Virginia State Code, Aggravated Sexual Battery, accessed Aug. 28, 2013.

Virginia State Code, Sexual Battery, accessed Aug. 28, 2013.

Virginia State Code, "General Definitions," accessed Sept. 12, 2013.

Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, fiscal analysis of boosting sexual battery from misdemeanor to a felony, Oct. 1, 2012.

E-mail from Paul Logan, spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, Sept. 12, 2012.

Gov. Bob McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell signs legislation to toughen penalties for violent sex offenders," Sept. 7, 2012.

 

Not clearly on the agenda

Bob McDonnell, while running for governor, laid out a series of initiatives to protect children from sex offenders.

He pledged, in an August 2009 policy paper, "Bob McDonnell will elevate sexual battery, when the crime is committed by force or where the offender is an adult and the victim is three (or more) years younger, to a class 6 felony. ”

Sexual battery -- defined as sexually molesting a victim by force, threat, intimidation or ruse -- is currently a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Boosting the crime to a class 6 felony would raise the maximum penalty to five years in prison.

McDonnell has not yet introduced the bill yet to increase the penalty, although he still has another legislative session to do so. Paul Logan, a McDonnell spokesman, sent us an email saying the governor "will consider legislation that would elevate sexual battery, committed by force, or where the offender is an adult and the victim is a minor and three or more years younger to a class 6 felony in his 2013 legislative agenda.”

Logan noted that McDonnell, on Sept. 7, signed a series of bills to toughen penalties on violent sex offenders. Among the measures was a law imposing a mandatory minimum life sentence for an adult convicted of rape, forcible sodomy or object sexual penetration of a child under 13.

We'll keep watch on whether McDonnell backs legislation that will raise sexual battery by an adult on a child to a class 6 felony. At this point, three months before his final legislative session, the governor has not committed to pushing for the bill. So, for now, we rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

E-mails from Paul Logan, spokesman for Gov. Bob McDonnell, September 12-14, 2012.

Interview with Paul Logan, September 14, 2012.

McDonnell for Governor, "McDonnell unveils public safety plan,” August, 2009.

Virginia State Code, "Sexual battery,” accessed September 14, 2012.

Virginia State Code, "Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor,” accessed September 14, 2012.

Virginia State Code, "General Definitions,” accessed September 14, 2012.

Virginia State Code,  "Penalty for conviction of felony,” accessed September 14, 2012.

Governor Bob McDonnell, "Governor McDonnell signs legislation to toughen penalties for violent sex offenders,” September 7, 2012.