Touched by separate crimes, Jeremy Brown and Louis Gonzalez have one thing in common: Both were attacked by murderers just weeks after their assailants were released from prison.
They and other crime victims' advocates urged a congressional panel Thursday to pass legislation threatening federal financial sanctions unless states enact stronger sentencing guidelines."I am here . . . to bear witness to what happens when murderers are given a second chance," Brown told a hearing of the House Judiciary crime subcommittee. The bill "could be a preventive tool to tighten up and fine-tune the procedures surrounding the release of all murderers, rapists and child molesters."
Brown was kidnapped, robbed and raped in South Nyack, N.Y., by Reginald McFadden three weeks after McFadden was paroled from a Pennsylvania prison. Gonzalez's brother, Police Sgt. Ippolito Gonzalez of Franklin Township, N.J., was killed by Robert "Mudman" Simon 11 weeks after Pennsylvania officials paroled him.
McFadden and Simon had been released from sentences for separate murders.
The legislation would hold a state financially liable if a convicted murderer, rapist or child molester were released from prison and later committed a crime in another state.
Congress has no direct authority over state prosecutions. The bill would make states liable for another state's costs for apprehending, prosecuting and incarcerating an offender released from the first state. The goal would be to encourage states to strengthen their laws and sentencing guidelines.
In the Simon case, for example, Pennsylvania would have been charged for costs incurred by New Jersey's law enforcement officials. The Justice Department would reduce Pennsylvania's share of federal grants and give the money to New Jersey.
"You need to implement this bill strictly as a deterrent so that other families, your families can never experience our life sentences," Gonzalez told the House panel.
Gonzalez said the threat of financial penalties would force states to think twice before releasing a criminal on parole.
Critics say the bill gives criminals no chance at rehabilitation and holds states responsible for events they cannot control.
Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., chairman of the crime subcommittee, said the chance of passing the bill this year is slim. Only weeks are left in the legislative calendar, and the Judiciary Committee is focused on considering impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.
Sponsored by Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., the bill is sometimes referred to as "Aimee's Law," named for slain college lacrosse star Aimee Wil-lard.
Jury selection was completed Wednesday in western Pennsylvania in the trial of Arthur Bomar, accused of the 1996 kidnapping, raping and killing of Willard, whose body was found in a north Philadelphia lot. Jury selection was shifted because of extensive news coverage, but the trial will be in the Philadelphia area.
Because of a gag order imposed in that case, Willard's mother could not testify at the House hearing.