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Moms seek tougher child sex law

February 23, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - By the time her daughter revealed she'd been sexually abused by her grandfather, the assaults had been going on for months, her mother, Tammy, told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

And she was not his first victim. There were at least three, Tammy said.

Nonetheless, the man spent less than two years of a 20-year sentence in prison before being paroled in December.

The irony for Tammy was that her father-in-law was released on her daughter's birthday, Dec. 9.

But Tammy, her daughter and their family still suffer, she said.

Tammy told The Herald-Mail that the family left Hagerstown to get away from her husband's family, who defended her father-in-law. Her husband has turned his back on the rest of his family. The abuse "made my husband, me and my son a victim, too," she said.

Fonda Philips said her ex-husband, a former correctional officer in Maryland, preyed on her children's friends in two states. Convicted in both Pennsylvania and Maryland, he was determined by Pennsylvania to be a sexually violent pedophile, she said. But he'll only serve half of his 10-year sentence because Maryland gave him credit for time served in Pennsylvania, she said.

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Both women asked the legislative committee for approval of a bill to add sexual abuse of a minor to Maryland's list of crimes of violence.

Doing so would force such abusers to serve at least half their prison sentences before becoming eligible for parole, said the bill's lead sponsor, Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

A subsequent conviction would also trigger the state's three-strikes law, bringing a mandatory 10-year penalty. And the bill would cut the "good time" an offender earns in prison toward relief.

"I would submit to you that sexual abuse of a minor is an inherently violent crime," Shank told his colleagues on the committee.

Passage of the bill would not only affect sentencing and parole, but would allow judges to hold suspects without bond as well, said Gina Cirincione, assistant state's attorney for Washington County.

"The first thing asked by victims is, 'What's he gonna get? How long will he be in prison?'" Cirincione said.

Split sentences, she said, are common in such cases.

Del. Neil Quinter, D-Howard, noted that under Maryland law, violent criminals are ineligible to have their records expunged and are prohibited from having certain jobs. Quinter has a similar bill pending in the Judiciary Committee.

Shank and Quinter have sponsored similar bills in the past, which failed because they included fourth-degree sexual offense, a misdemeanor. Shank said he was amending the bill to exclude fourth-degree sexual offense, hoping that will help its chances for passage.

Even if it doesn't, Tammy plans to keep fighting.

"I'm not gonna stop until something's done about it," she said. "If we can just help one child, that's one child that won't have to go through what our children did."

House Bill 706

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