Perpetrators of child sexual abuse don't deserve leniency
8/17/2015
Last week, a child sex offender from Lancaster County had his 23- to 46-year sentence overturned by the State Superior Court.

The Lancaster city man, Kevin Getchius, found guilty on counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, unlawful contact with a minor, and corruption of a minor, is now likely to receive a lighter sentence. He argued that his sentence was excessive.

Think about that: A man convicted of raping and sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl believes that his sentence is too long. This is a shock to the senses and defies all reason. Even worse, he isn’t alone in thinking he was treated unfairly. All across Pennsylvania, convicted child sex offenders are lining up in droves to appeal their sentences for the chance to serve less time behind bars.

The 2013 decision of the United States Supreme Court in Alleyne v. United States is the driving factor behind these overturned sentences. The Pennsylvania Superior Court has used this ruling to eliminate a multitude of mandatory minimum sentences for crimes, including heinous sexual crimes against children. The Superior Court’s actions are a devastating blow to the victims of these crimes, our communities and law enforcement officials.

Their decision will put child molesters back on our streets and neighborhoods sooner, where they will likely offend again, destroying another life of an innocent child and their family. With some studies suggesting recidivism rates in excess of 50 percent for child sex offenders, granting these criminals short sentences should weigh heavily on the members of our judiciary.

The good news is the state General Assembly can stop this from continuing. After working together with Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman, I have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to reinstate the mandatory minimum sentence language for child molesters. I have also been working along with state Sen. Ryan Aument, who has introduced identical legislation in the Senate.

Since we announced the introduction of our legislation three months ago on the steps of the Lancaster County Courthouse, there have been several local stories detailing the horrific acts being committed against our children. There seems to be no end in sight.

These are crimes that we all can agree are despicable and are deserving of a punishment that matches their deplorable nature.

Mandatory minimum sentences are necessary to protect victims of these crimes. No child should grow up in a state of constant fear, knowing that his or her assailant is no longer behind bars. Yet this is exactly what is happening across the commonwealth.

Without mandatory minimum sentences in place, child molesters are being released before many of their victims graduate from high school. That is absolutely unacceptable. These traumatized children have already been through enough and deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are free from harm during the remaining years of their childhood.

Opponents of mandatory minimum sentences would like judges to have greater flexibility in determining sentences. I do not necessarily disagree with this opinion; however, certain crimes rise above and beyond and demand a harsh minimum sentence. To me, rape and sexual assault of children are these kinds of crimes. I agree with DA Stedman, who recently said: “No sentence will be long enough to atone for these terrible crimes.”

As a civilized society, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to deter these crimes from happening and to ensure that when they do, they are not taken lightly. If one would-be child sex offender thinks twice about committing a crime because of the stiff penalties associated with it, this legislation would be successful. More importantly, this legislation would help prevent re-offenses, by making sure that these criminals stay behind bars for longer sentences.

One of the primary responsibilities of government is to ensure public safety, particularly protecting our children; however, our judicial system made it necessary for the Legislature to act, when it eliminated these tough penalties. We must continue to stand up for victims of these crimes. I will continue working to make sure that justice is delivered in the commonwealth and that criminals are given a punishment reflective of their unspeakable actions. My legislation is an attempt to do just that.

State Rep. Keith J. Greiner is a Republican from Leola.

http://www.repgreiner.com/
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