O'Malley signs laws targeting sex offenses, gang crime

May 04, 2010

ANNAPOLIS (AP) -- Parents of children victimized by sex offenders and gang crime said they found solace in child protective legislation signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday, mingled with regret that it took their children's deaths to bring it about.

Some of the highest-profile legislation approved this year in Maryland came in response to crimes against children committed by sex offenders and people in gangs.

Jennifer Foxwell, mother of slain 11-year-old Sarah Foxwell, came to Annapolis on the last day of the session to implore lawmakers to pass the bills. She said she met that day with O'Malley, who "promised me he would make it go through."

"I think all of our law enforcement and probation officers and everybody will see that we have new laws in place, so let's really take action and protect our children more so," Foxwell said after a bill signing ceremony.


Sarah's death in December on the Eastern Shore spurred a bipartisan push for stronger laws. A registered sex offender has been charged in her killing.

O'Malley signed legislation to require lifetime supervision of some people convicted of the most severe sex crimes. He also signed a bill establishing a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for people who commit more serious sex offenses or rape against a child. That's an increase from a five-year sentence under current law. Maryland also will be in compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which creates minimum standards for sex offender registration.

O'Malley, a Democrat, also signed measures targeting gang crimes -- from the kingpins who organize gangs to children who begin drifting into gangs in schools.

Jenny Adkins, the mother of a 14-year-old Crofton boy who was killed in a gang dispute, said legislation O'Malley signed to require more communication between educators and law enforcement about students who commit crimes linked with gang activity is "an absolute necessity."

Adkins, who believes the Anne Arundel County school system did not adequately protect her son Christopher Jones from gang activity in school, said she found comfort in knowing the change in the law will help shield other students from gang crime.

"I'm still extremely outraged at the school system for failing my son and my family," Adkins said after the bill signing. "However, I'm extremely pleased that the bill has passed, because it will protect other children."

O'Malley thanked the families who endured their own tragedies while working to strengthen laws to help others.

"We are joined by a number of families wearing that most important of all titles in our state -- the title of 'citizen' -- who came down here and gave some very courageous and compelling testimony," O'Malley said.

O'Malley also said the state was making progress protecting children from violence. So far this year, five children statewide have died from violence, compared to 22 the same time last year.

House Speaker Michael Busch, who pushed for the legislation to cut down on gang activity in schools, also thanked the families. He said they inspired landmark legislation.

"It's unfortunate that the Foxwells had to go through the situations they had for us to address this, but our goal is to never have that happen again in the state of Maryland," Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said.

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