Legislation that would mandate a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for the aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years of age has passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

The bi-partisan bill (A-2027), dubbed the “Jessica Lunsford Act” in memory of the Florida nine year old who was raped and murdered in 2005 by a previously convicted sex offender, is prime sponsored by Assembly Members Nancy Munoz, Jerry Green, Mary Pat Angelini and Alison Littell McHose.

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“We must do all we can to protect our children from predators,” said McHose (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris).  “The Jessica Lunsford Act will go along way to protect our most vulnerable amongst us and send punish those who seek to do them harm.”

A-2027 cosponsor Assemblyman Gary Chiusano is pleased with the progress the legislation is making.

“It is about time the New Jersey Assembly is moving this legislation,” said Chiusano.  “New Jersey has been behind the majority of the country on this very important issue.  I am proud to say today that the Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee took a giant leap forward.  We will be urging the Senate President and Assembly Speaker to allow both houses of the Legislature to do the same.”

Jessica Lunsford’s father, Mark, traveled to New Jersey in 2011 and joined Senator Diane Allen at a press conference advocating for the measure.  Under the act, offenders could only be paroled after serving a minimum of 25 years in prison.

In the Senate, the bill (S-380) is prime sponsored by Senator Steve Oroho.  The Senate Law and Public Safety committee passed the Jessica Lunsford Act on June 4 and the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on September 20, which Senator Oroho serves on.

 “Jessica Lunsford was assaulted by a repeat offender, as was New Jersey’s own Megan Kanka,” said Oroho.  “Keeping child predators incarcerated for extensive periods of time is the only way to prevent tragedy like that experienced by the Lunsford family from happening again.”