Tougher Penalties For Sex Offenders
The abduction and sexual assault of a 13-year-old girl as she walked home from school on a quiet Woodside street led Assemblymember Michael Gianaris to urge the passage of legislation that would dramatically increase the penalties imposed on first-time offenders who rape, sodomize or sexually abuse a child.
Gianaris’ legislation, the Child Protection Act, raises the prison time for a first such sexual assault on a child from the present five years to a mandatory 25 years to life. Should such a perpetrator ever be released, another provision of the Child Protection Act would require that he or she wear an ankle bracelet and be electronically monitored for the rest of his or her life.
“Existing penalties for sex offenses are embarrassingly lenient,” Gianaris told community leaders and experts in the field of sexual abuse at a press conference at Elmhurst Hospital Center, home of the Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention program (SAVI) and the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination program (SAFE) this past Sunday. “Right now, the punishment does not even come close to fitting the crime. A tough new standard is necessary to ensure that these deviants are kept off the streets for good.”
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, at approximately 3:40 p.m. on October 18, opposite 70-44 48th Ave., Woodside, the suspect allegedly called out to the 13-year-old schoolgirl from his green mini-van and asked her for directions to Queens Boulevard. When the child continued walking, the suspect got out of the van, punched her in the face and pulled her into his van. He then allegedly pulled a knife and told the child to do as he said and not to scream or he would kill her. The suspect then raped, beat and sodomized the child before robbing her of her cell phone and dropping her off. The victim went to the nearby home of relatives and reported the crime.
Police traced the van and arrested a suspect, who the victim courageously picked out of a lineup. Jofre Bautista, 33, of 105 Starr St., Brooklyn, who is employed by a Long Island City awning company, was charged with rape in the first and second degrees, kidnapping in the second degree, criminal sexual acts in the first and second degrees, assault in the second degree and robbery in the first degree. If convicted he faces up to 25 years in prison, mostly for the assault and robbery charges.
Gianaris was joined by City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., state Senator John Sabini, and Congressmember Joseph Crowley in vociferously expressing his outrage at the attack, the latest in a series of sex crimes victimizing children.
Last summer, Gianaris joined Vallone in calling for stiffer penalties for sex crimes after a man attacked a nine-year-old girl in Astoria Park. Peter Belegrinos, of 20-64 24th St., a 23-year-old Astoria resident, was charged with attempted rape, attempted kidnapping, sexual abuse and disorderly conduct after he allegedly forced a nine-year-old girl into a wooded area and sexually abused her. The child screamed and Belegrinos allegedly punched her in the face. The child was able to get away and witnesses called 911. Belegrinos was tracked to his address by police and arrested after he fled the park, leaving his 1999 four-door Lincoln Town Car behind. Especially angering Gianaris, Vallone and many other concerned citizens was the fact that Belegrinos was released on $25,000 bail and remains free. Bautista is held without bail.
“Above all else, our first priority should be the safety and well-being of our children,” Gianaris said at the Sunday press conference. “I am hopeful this vital issue will be addressed as soon as possible to provide our kids with the protection they need and deserve.” He added that in addition to providing justice befitting the heinous nature of the offense, the Child Protection Act, by keeping those who prey on children in jail longer, will also decrease the likelihood that a sex offender will be back on the street looking for another victim. Sex offenders generally have a higher rate of recidivism than other criminals, Gianaris noted.