HARRISBURG – The State Senate has approved legislation to further protect Pennsylvania children from sexual abuse and impose a mandatory minimum sentence for murder of a child, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-25).
Scarnati explained that House Bill 112 was passed by the full Senate by a vote of 45 to 1.
The legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Vereb and would establish specific guidelines to punish athletic coaches, trainers or other sports officials who have sex with a child-athlete who is under 18 years old. The bill also creates the offense of “sexual assault by a sports official,” which would be graded as a third-degree felony.
“Athletics are a wonderful way for students to learn important teamwork skills and to have fun,” Scarnati said. “Parents have a right to feel secure in knowing that their children are safe when participating in sports and that child predators are not able to use athletics as a way to harm children.”
In addition to protecting children from sexual assault, Scarnati explained that he offered an amendment to House Bill 112, which will also set a minimum of 15 years in prison for murder of a child who is under the age of 13.
“It has become apparent that our Commonwealth must do more to make certain that child murderers are not given lenient sentences,” Scarnati stated.
“Sentences like the recent and appalling decision of only 6 – 12 years in prison handed-down by Philadelphia Judge Benjamin Lerner, to an individual who was convicted of murdering multiple newborn babies while employed at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic, cannot continue.”
Scarnati noted that mandatory minimum sentences are not always appropriate in Pennsylvania’s judicial system, however, it is needed in this instance as there is currently no mandatory minimum sentence for someone convicted of a third-degree murder of a child.
“Protecting our most vulnerable individuals in Pennsylvania is our duty and responsibility,” Scarnati said. “We must do all that we can to discourage and prevent these horrific crimes against children.”
House Bill 112 will now be sent back to the House of Representatives for concurrence.