WEST CHESTER, PA — State Senator Tom Killion (R-9) recently joined Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan and advocates for those with disabilities at a news conference at The Arc of Chester County in West Goshen to call for passage of legislation he is sponsoring to expand Pennsylvania’s hate crime statute.
Senate Bill 444 would add individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities to those protected by Pennsylvania’s hate crime statute.
Currently, prosecutors can only consider enhanced charges under Pennsylvania’s hate crime statute for certain crimes committed with intentional malice against someone based on their race, color, religion or national origin.
The new legislation would enable prosecutors to enhance the grading of specific crimes of violence that are committed against individuals with physical and mental disabilities. For example, a simple assault conviction, instead of carrying a one to two years sentence, would increase to 2 1/2 to five years. A second-degree felony assault would be increased to a first-degree felony.
“We have cases of this crime in our area and across the nation. It’s a form of bullying and cruelty at the highest level, and also often referred to as a ‘silent hate crime’ because it is many times not reported or underreported,” said Killion. “Senate Bill 444 will give prosecutors the ability to hold the individuals perpetrating these despicable crimes accountable. I commend District Attorney Hogan for bringing this gap in the law to our attention and his leadership in working with us to fix this problem.”
“People with mental or physical disabilities have been targeted for assaults. The sad truth is that some bullies see a disability as an opportunity to mock and hurt good people” D.A. Hogan said. “The law needs to take into account that people with disabilities is a class of uniquely vulnerable victims. Any defendant who attacks a person with a disability should face stiff punishment. Law enforcement appreciates Senator Killion’s efforts to make this law a reality.”
Killion and Hogan were joined by Jeanne Meikrantz, Executive Director of The Arc of Chester County, and Matthey Holliday, Vice President of the Board of The Arc of Chester County and County Prothonotary, to urge legislative action on the bill.
“This important hate crime legislation being introduced by Senator Killion is a critical piece of legislation that helps forward our mission to advocate and ensure equal rights and maximum protections for individuals with disabilities,” Meikrantz said.
“A society should be judged on how it treats its most vulnerable citizens,” Holliday said. “I’m proud to see that Chester County Elected Officials are leading the way to change how our laws protect individuals with disabilities living in our community.”
Killion said studies have shown that individuals with disabilities are much more susceptible to victimization due to personal and situational factors which foster isolation, dependence, and vulnerability.
“This bill is important because it will bring these kinds of crimes out from under the veil of secrecy and shame and ensure that those convicted receive the punishment they deserve,” said Killion.
Source: Thomas H. Killion (R), Pennsylvania State Senate, Senate District 9
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