Committee advances Schepisi bill expanding prosecution for sexual assault crimes against minors

Committee advances Schepisi bill expanding prosecution for sexual assault crimes against minors

Holly Schepisi

TRENTON, N.J. –  New Jersey took a step towards closing a prosecution loophole under a bill (A717) advanced by the Assembly Judiciary Committee today that would prosecute teachers and chaperones who sexually prey on minors in jurisdictions with less restrictive age of consent laws.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a sponsor of the bill, said the legislation is needed so that sexually assaulted minors can find justice and closure and to prevent such assaults from continuing to take place.

This legislation was originally introduced as a result of a 2011 case in which two Paramus Catholic High School teachers were indicted for multiple acts of sexual misconduct involving three 17-year-old female students on a school-sponsored trip to Germany. In reversing two lower court rulings, the N.J. Supreme Court ruled the state does not have jurisdiction to prosecute against sexual misconduct if it occurred outside the state even if it were a school chaperone.

“Two lower courts ruled the case could proceed and even the Supreme Court, in overruling the other two, said its decision ‘may be unsettling.’ Clearly, the law needs to be amended to ensure better protection of our minors,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen).

The bill amends state statute granting state jurisdiction to prosecute cases for sexual assault crimes committed outside of New Jersey when an individual has supervisory power over a minor.

“Sexual predators should not be able to use an ambiguous law to violate minors. Even if it doesn’t happen in New Jersey, it is a crime and victims deserve justice,” said Schepisi.