Cybercrime, marital rape bills pass committee toward full Senate
Published: September 21, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee breezed through the voting process on 11 bills Friday afternoon.
Most of the bills were forwarded from the Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice Committee and are intended to make the territory safer.
Senators Sammuel Sanes, Janette Millin Young, Kenneth Gittens, Myron Jackson and Diane Capehart voted in favor of advancing all of the bills on to the full Senate for consideration. Sen. Donald Cole and Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone were absent from Friday's hearing.
"We have passed, in my opinion, some excellent bills," Sanes said. "Most of the bills come from the public safety realm, and this is an indication of how serious this body takes the safety of our people."
Some of the bills are meant to catch up the V.I. Code to other states' legal frameworks by outlawing specific criminal activities at the local level.
Bill 30-006, sponsored by Capehart, creates penalties for technological crimes, including tampering with government data systems; phishing, or trolling for personal data over the Internet; computer-based fraud schemes; and online stalking and harassment. Capehart said 40 other states already have such statutes in place to combat cybercrimes.
Bill 30-0039 makes it illegal to throw bodily fluids onto another person or introduce them to the food or drink of another person. The bill makes it a felony for a person who knows they have a communicable disease to do so.
Sanes, who sponsored the bill, said in a brief introduction of it, that the bill would help correctional and police officers, who, as V.I. Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard Sr. and Corrections Director Julius Wilson testified during an earlier hearing, are suffering more and more attacks of this nature.
Bill 30-0060, sponsored by Sanes, adds legal protection for the victims of rape and sexual assault in cases of aggravated domestic violence, removing exemptions from punishment for spouses in existing rape laws.
After the bill was introduced to the Public Safety Committee on Sept. 10, Sen. Alicia Hansen, who said she did not understand how marital rape could happen, drew criticism from national media, and the coverage of her comments fueled public discussion in the Virgin Islands.
Before voting favorably on the bill, Gittens said that in response to some misconceptions he had heard expressed in the public, he wished to state that provisions within the bill did not equate kissing with rape, but that such activity, if non-consensual, would fall under unlawful sexual contact. He then affirmed his support of the measure, as did Jackson and Millin Young.
Two other bills expand the number of executive branch employees who qualify for peace officer status.
Bill 30-0045 would grant the status to the "Chief or Assistant Chief of Security and Sergeant-at-Arms of the Legislature of the Virgin Islands."
Bill 30-0117 would grant peace officer status to probation officers and V.I. Waste Management Authority Enforcement officers.
Sanes wrote an amendment to both bills addressing concerns raised by Querrard, who testified that a multitude of government departments in the Virgin Islands had personnel with peace officer status, but that personnel from only a handful of other departments actually provided assistance when needed to the police department. The amendment gives the governor the authority to reassign any peace officer from another department to the Police Department on a temporary basis.
Other bills the committee forwarded to the full Senate include:
- Bill 30-0062, which would make it illegal for felons to possess body armor.
- Bill 30-0063, which requires that the Territorial Parole Board notify victims when an inmate is paroled.
- Bill 30-0177, which clarifies exemptions from stamp tax on transfers of real property.
- Bill 30-0236, which is a resolution honoring the late Emile Griffith for his contributions to the Virgin Islands.
Griffith was a boxing champion who captured many titles during the 1960s, and, though he lived and trained in New York City most of his career, he always identified as a Virgin Islander. His career is touted among local boxing trainers as having opened up the doors for many aspiring athletes in the territory.
Griffith died July 23 at the age of 75.
- Bill 30-0126, a resolution to honor the late Sidney Lee by having a roadway on St. Croix leading to Island Center officially designated "Sidney Lee Road" and appropriating $3,000 to the V.I. Public Works Department for appropriate signage.
Lee came to the Virgin Islands in the 1940s to serve as president of the West Indian Investment Company. He was a beloved philanthropist, newspaper columnist and Virgin Islands senator, and served on various prominent boards and committees.
He died June 19, 2008, at the age of 89.
- Contact Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email email@example.com.