Officials plead for harsher sex-crime penalties
After an alarming rash of sexual attacks in city parks, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said today that sexual predators need to be jailed longer — and should face harsher sentences when they attack again and again.
Just today, David Mitchell, 42, was indicted for allegedly raping an elderly woman in Central Park — and prosecutors said he sexually abused two additional women the same day.
Quinn announced a five-point fleet of legislative suggestions she said should make it more difficult for predators to leave prison, and easier to prosecute them.
Quinn referenced two recent rapes, one of an elderly birdwatcher in Central Park in September and another woman, weeks later, who was raped in Hudson River Park.
City officials said the multiple attacks unsettled residents in what Quinn called “heinous” crimes.
“These attacks have women on edge,” Upper East Side Councilwoman Jessica Lappin added.
Quinn suggested that sex offenders should appear once a year to have their photo taken and meet with law enforcement – right now, some meet once every three years.
Among other suggestions were pushing judges to seek maximum jail time and provide more funding to Sexual Assault Response Teams, which aid victims and help collect evidence that can be pivotal for prosecution.
One major loophole, officials said, is the ability to punish sex attackers who commit the same crimes again and again.
Under state law, officials said, a harsher punishment is available for repeat offenders – but only within a 10-year period. Some criminals are in jail during that 10-year period, which counts in the time.
This means, for example, that someone sentenced to 10 years for a sex crime could commit the same crime the day they leave prison and not face a harsher penalty.
“That just does not make any sense,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, who introduced a bill to close the loophole.
And Queens Councilman Peter Vallone said that the state punishment for public lewdness, like flashing someone on the subway, doesn’t change, even after multiple times.
The City Council passed a law to make this a harsher misdemeanor, changing it from a misdemeanor facing a maximum of 90 days in jail to one with a maximum of one year, he said, but statewide there is no similar repeat penalty, he said.
“No one is doing jail time for their sixth, seventh lewdness,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”
“We’ve got to make it much easier to keep these predators out of our trains and off our streets,” he added.
Rape suspect in court
Quinn made the announcement the same day that David Mitchell, 42, was indicted for allegedly raping an elderly woman in Central Park. Prosecutors say that he raped a 73-year-old woman who was bird watching in the park. He was also charged with sexually attacking two women on the Upper West Side the same day. “The timing, I hope, sends an even stronger message that we’re not going to yield one piece of parkland, one blade of grass,” Quinn said.
Another sex attack in park
Police were looking for a man wanted for attacking a teenager in Peck Park in Fresh Meadows, Queens. According to police, on Aug. 21 around 10:30 p.m., a man approached a 17-year-old girl, knocked her to the ground and tried to rape her. The victim was able to kick him in the chest and get away, cops said. Police described him as a white male, 40 to 50 and about 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds. The victim told police he spoke with an Eastern European accent.