Legislation to increase jail sentences for criminals who prey on and stalk children is on its way to President Trump for a signature.
December 9, 2020
The push for the Combat Online Predators Act bill was spearheaded by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in the Senate, and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.-1) in the House.
According to Sen. Toomey's office, the bill will increase federal criminal penalties for stalkers by up to five years if the victim is a minor. Additionally, it calls for the U.S. Department of Justice to evaluate federal, state, and local efforts to enforce stalking laws and identify enforcement best practices.
The legislation passed the Senate in October and was approved by the House on Tuesday night.
The Combat Online Predators Act was inspired by the story of the Zezzo family of Bucks County whose teenaged daughter was cyber-stalked by a friend's father on social media. Despite the stalking being sexual in nature, the then-51-year-old stalker pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor stalking charge and was sentenced to probation and counseling. Three years later, in 2016, the same stalker began making contact again. This time, he was arrested in a sting by local police and sentenced to between 18 months and seven years in a state prison.
"This bipartisan bill will give judges additional tools to ensure that perpetrators who stalk or cyberstalk children are held accountable with serious penalties," said Sen. Toomey. "I urge the President to sign Combat Online Predators swiftly into law so that we can continue the fight to keep our children safe from predatory behavior.”