Legislature has taken brave stand

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Jessica’s Law will help prosecutors close more cases of sexual abuse against children.

I am writing to commend the Maine Legislature for its courageous and strong leadership on Jessica’s Law.

The issue of mandatory minimum sentencing for persons convicted of child abuse was highly charged this year. The legislation which ultimately passed dramatically toughens penalties while at the same time preserving the independence of our judiciary.

The independence of our judiciary has served us well over the years. While I do not always agree with a sentence handed down, it has been a rare event indeed where I did not feel that my sentence recommendation had received fair consideration from the presiding judge. I am quite confident that Maine’s judges have listened carefully to the debate on this issue and heard the people.

The originally proposed mandatory minimum penalties may have sounded good at first, but would have had the opposite of their intended effect. They would have hampered our efforts to prosecute many of these offenders, as many child victims simply are unable to withstand the further trauma of a trial.

Maine’s prosecutors work closely with victims of sexual assault on a daily basis, and the legislation passed will be of invaluable assistance in holding these offenders accountable.

I know that it was not easy to take a position which was unpopular in some quarters. It took courage to examine this issue closely and fashion an approach which was ultimately best for victims of sexual assault. But, I, for one, appreciate the fact that the Maine Legislature stood with Maine’s prosecutors and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault in coming up with responsible legislation which will aid greatly in the fight against child abuse.

In the coming months and years, I will do whatever I can in the criminal justice system to validate the legislative position taken on this critical issue.

Evert N. Fowle is district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties. He is also president of the Maine Prosecutors Association.

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