'Bystander Protection Act' to provide stiffer sentencing
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, is seeking enhanced penalties for those who injure or kill a member of the public during an attack on a representative. The legislation he is drafting is partly in response to a threatening email he received on Friday, April 1, that was also sent to other lawmakers and the media.
The email, titled Time to Kill, is currently being investigated by State Police. According to law enforcement, the emails are similar in content. The state Office of Counter Terrorism deemed the threats not credible, but police are treating it as a serious threat and are not releasing further information at this time.
In response to the email, Tedisco is drafting the legislation, known as the "Bystander Protection Act."
"History tells us that attacks on elected officials, such as what happened to Congresswoman (Gabrielle) Giffords, can also lead to the injury or death of innocent bystanders," said Tedisco in a statement. "Clearly, the most important voices in our democracy are not elected officials, but the citizens who give us the honor to serve them. This legislation more fully indicates the importance of their voices and more fully protects those who wish to interact in public with their elected officials."
Elected representatives, he said, are aware of the risk taken when running for office and the threat of violence, but ensuring the freedom to publicly exchange ideas is important to maintain.
A final draft of the bill isn't completed, but the focus is to increase prison time. Along with Tedisco, fellow Republican Assemblymen Steve McLaughlin and Andrew Raia will introduce the completed bill.
"There shouldn't be any violence against anybody, but what this bills says is if you injure a constituent that is interacting in our democracy, the penalty will be heightened," said Tedisco. "We take on this job knowing people are going to be angry with some things we do."