Bill Increases Penalty for Cyberstalkers; the Legislation Is One of Several Bills Introduced to Crack Down on Sex Crimes in the State

By Goodson, Audrey | The Florida Times Union, February 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

Bill Increases Penalty for Cyberstalkers; the Legislation Is One of Several Bills Introduced to Crack Down on Sex Crimes in the State


Goodson, Audrey, The Florida Times Union


Byline: AUDREY GOODSON

ATLANTA -- Looking to crack down on sex crimes in Georgia, lawmakers have introduced a host of bills aimed at preventing offenders from striking twice, but one bill in the Senate would increase the penalty for first-time offenders.

Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, introduced Senate Bill 393, which would raise the penalty for cyberstalking from a misdemeanor to a felony if the victim were a minor.

"Something that's always been one of my pet peeves is that as technology develops, criminals find ways to use that technology," Staton said. "I just want to make sure that in Georgia we're up to speed on these things. I think anyone who is a parent is particularly worried about this."

The bill follows several high profile cases in Georgia, in which older men were arrested for using the Internet to solicit sex from underage girls, including the arrest last March of Ernest Darryl Dean, the former school superintendent in Pike County.

Dean was the fifth person arrested by Peachtree City police in a set of sting operations. Jim Murray, Peachtree City police chief, said his office has made 14 arrests in the last 17 months involving adults soliciting minors online.

The bill also cracks down on stalkers who carry a weapon, threaten the victim or have a history of aggression or violence toward the victim or another person.

Joan Prittie, executive director of Project Safe, a private non-profit organization in Athens that provides shelter to victims of domestic violence, said these parts of the bill "make very good sense."

"One of the things we've seen is that there is not this nice, neat linear pattern of increasing acts of physical abuse," she said. …

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