HARRISBURG – Standing atop the Lancaster Courthouse steps, Lancaster County lawmakers and members of the local law enforcement community today unveiled a number of bills aimed at addressing recent violent crimes that have occurred in Lancaster County.
Reps. Keith J. Greiner (R-Upper Leacock), Steven Mentzer (R-Lititz), Bryan Cutler (R-Peach Bottom), Mindy Fee (R-Manheim), Dave Hickernell (R-West Donegal), Brett Miller (R-East Hempfield) and Dave Zimmerman (R-East Earl) joined with Sens. Ryan Aument (R-Lancaster) and Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) and Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman to introduce the legislative package, which would reinstate penalties for burglary and sexual assault against children, as well as create an intermediate level assault charge.
The lawmakers said that a number of violent crimes committed in Lancaster County, including the murder of Nicole Mathewson, inspired the legislation. According to police, Mathewson, a sixth-grade teacher at Brownstown Elementary in the Conestoga Valley School District, was sexually assaulted and murdered in December when two men burglarized her home.
“Sadly, it seems like every day there’s a different headline in the news about a burglary, a sexual assault, a murder or all three combined into one horrific incident,” Greiner said. “The Nicole Mathewson case stands out for its barbarity and closeness to home for a lot of us. I have friends and neighbors whose kids had her as their teacher and who are now worried if they’re even safe in their own homes. These bills represent months of collaboration among Sen. Aument, Rep. Mentzer, District Attorney Stedman and me to help restore residents’ peace of mind and ensure that violent, heinous crimes are met with justice.”
Greiner and Aument will introduce concurrently in the House and Senate two bills that would reinstate punishments for burglary and sexual assault against children. The first bill would institute a mandatory five-year minimum sentence for first-time burglary offenses and an additional 10 years for subsequent offenses. The second bill makes technical changes in the law to re-establish longstanding mandatory sentences for sexual crimes against children.
“There is no greater priority for government than to protect people. Unfortunately, a series of court cases have created the necessity for these bills by removing stiff penalties that had previously be in place,” Aument said.
“I join my colleagues today in standing up for the victims of crime because no individual or family should live in fear of being burglarized, having their child sexually assaulted, or being a victim of other substantial bodily injury, but one of the best ways to prevent these heinous crimes it to punish the people who do it.”
Mentzer will introduce a bill that would create an intermediate level of assault graded as a third-degree felony. Current law includes simple assault, which is graded as a misdemeanor offense, and aggravated assault, which can be either a first- or second-degree felony. Mentzer’s bill adds a middle-ground assault charge to help guide law enforcement and the courts when dealing with substantial, but not life-threatening, bodily injury.
“In consulting with District Attorney Stedman, it became clear that there is as huge gap between simple and aggravated assault charges and that there are a lot of cases that belong in the middle,” Mentzer said. “My bill would create an intermediate level of assault for the cases far worse than a mere simple assault – which can be a single punch – but which do not rise to the level of aggravated assault – which relates to an act that causes serious bodily injury.”
Stedman echoed the lawmakers concerns regarding the need for stricter penalties for burglary and sexual assaults against children.
“It is time for our laws to catch up with the danger and severity of home burglaries – particularly when a victim is home – and I thank the legislators for their actions and leadership,” Stedman said. “During my time as a prosecutor and my seven years as an elected district attorney, I have found no crime more devastating and more despicable than child molestation. Child molesters are rapists. Child molesters are violent criminals. Child molesters need to face mandatory minimum sentences. These are simple, common sense changes that send an important message and set an important tone about what we value most – our children and our homes.”
Representative Keith J. Greiner, CPA
43rd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jonathan Anzur
RepGreiner.com / Facebook.com/RepGreiner
Senator Ryan Aument
Media Contact: Stephanie Buchanan