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Correa Co-Authors Legislation for Tougher Punishment for Violent Sex Offenders

SACRAMENTO, CA- Tuesday, California legislators passed Assembly Bill 1844 out of the Legislature. This measure, also known as “Chelsea’s Law,” was introduced by Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher from San Diego.

AB 1844 significantly strengthens the law regarding punishments of sex offenders. Under Chelsea’s law a sex predator who kidnaps, drugs, binds and tortures or uses a weapon while committing a sex crime against a child would face life in prison without parole. This measure will also increase parole terms for those who target children under the age of 14.  This bill also makes provisions to restrict sex offenders’ abilities to enter parks.

State Senator Lou Correa addressing National Victims Rights during a march to the State Capitol

State Senator Lou Correa (Orange County) issued the following statement on the passage of AB 1844:

“A crime against a child is despicable, sex crimes are crimes against an individual’s soul, a young victim’s life is changed beyond repair, and that is morally reprehensible. As a co-author of Chelsea’s Law, I am very pleased to see that the Legislature has come together on a bipartisan effort to pass this very important measure. Statistics show that on the average, a sex predator strikes eight times before he or she is apprehended.   As legislators and as a society, we have to do everything we can to stop these individuals who commit these horrible crimes before they strike again. One victim is one too many.  AB 1844 is a good measure that will help to put away these perpetrators once and for all.”

According to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are 704,777 registered sex offenders in the Unites States.  As of last year, there were 83,000 registered sex offenders living in California, the highest population in the nation.  According to the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (CDCR), this population is growing and protecting the public from sexual offenders is becoming “increasingly complex”.  Although California leads the nation in terms of sex offenders on GPS (over 7,000), personnel and funding shortages due to the current budget crisis constrains sex offenders’ management implementation. According to a report released last month by the California Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB), 70 to 75 percent of the state’s parolees are unsupervised at any given time.

In early March 2010, Chelsea King, a 17-year-old girl from San Diego County, disappeared while she went for a run. She was found dead in a shallow grave several days after she went missing.  Chelsea was a “straight-A” senior at Poway High School.  John Albert Gardner III, a registered sex offender, pleaded guilty to raping and killing Chelsea King and 14-year-old Amber Dubois

In 2000, Gardner, a 30-year-old Lake Elsinore resident, pleaded guilty to molesting and committing a forcible and lewd act upon his 13-year-old girl neighbor. She managed to escape and testified against Gardner. He was eligible to serve a maximum of 11 years in prison.  Yet, he served only five years out of a six-year term under a plea agreement.  When he was released from prison, Gardner was registered on the Magan’s Law website, but operated “under the radar” when he often stayed at his mother’s home near an elementary school. According to authorities, Gardner is also linked to another case in the San Diego area, an assault in late 2009 on Candice Moncayo, a 22-year-old woman who was jogging in the community park where Chelsea King’s car was found after she disappeared.

Early this year, Senator Correa introduced Senate Bill 1037 (SB 1037) to allow courts the ability to order full term sentences, particularly in certain aggravated cases involving violent sexual offenders. This measure died in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

In closing, Senator Correa added: “Chelsea’s Law is a long awaited answer for victims and their families who have experienced heinous crimes perpetrated by violent sex offenders. I commend the tireless work and perseverance of Assemblymember Fletcher on leading a bipartisan effort that resulted in AB 1844. I urge Governor Schwarzenegger to cast the final vote on “Chelsea’s Law” by signing this measure into law.”

AB 1844 is on its way to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

Senator Lou Correa represents the 34th District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Buena Park, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Stanton and Westminster.