- The Washington Times - Friday, March 15, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
The House passed legislation yesterday mandating automatic life sentences for two-time federal child sex offenders.
The vote on the "two strikes" bill was 382-34.
"Take these sick monsters off the streets," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Green, Wisconsin Republican. "End the cycle of horrific violence that is every child's nightmare."
Life sentences would be mandatory for any federal child sex offense if the defendant was previously convicted of a federal or state sex crime involving children. Among the criteria for a federal sex crime are crossing state lines or committing the act on federal land.
Mr. Green described a scourge of repeat-offender pedophiles who he said needed to be locked up. But some lawmakers painted a different picture: a high school senior boy sentenced to life for touching his freshman girlfriend.
That's because one of the sex crimes covered is engaging in a sexual act with a minor between the ages of 12 and 15, if the two are at least four years apart in age.
"Two strikes, you're out is not even good baseball policy," said Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat. "Why would we think it's good crime policy?"
Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr., the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Congress shouldn't "expose countless teen-agers to life sentences for being involved in consensual relationships."
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said that argument misses the point of the bill.
"This is not some post-adolescent whose hormones have run amok. It is someone who is preying on someone 10 or 15 years younger," said Mr. Sensenbrenner, the committee chairman.
The House defeated Mr. Scott's amendment to give judges the discretion, but not the requirement, to hand down life sentences for two-time offenders.
Mr. Green's bill was inspired by the California kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Polly Klaas by a repeat sex offender in 1993. As a state representative in Wisconsin, Mr. Green worked with Polly's father, Marc, on a two-strikes bill that became state law in 1998.
Polly's case also prompted California to pass a "three strikes" law that let judges sentence defendants to 25 years to life for any felony conviction if they already had been convicted of two serious or violent felonies.
The House passed "two strikes" legislation in 1999 and again in 2000, when it was too late in the session for the Senate to consider it. No senator has introduced a companion bill this year.


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