Kennedy, Gabryszak Secure Long-Awaited Passage of Jay-J’s Law
Senate, Assembly pass Jay-J’s Law to improve state’s aggravated assault codes and protect children from abuse.
Deal was struck to ensure Jay-J’s Law passed this year with provisions to extend the aggravated assault look-back period from three to ten years.
ALBANY, N.Y. – After years of fighting for a very courageous little boy, Jay-J’s Law has finally passed in both the Assembly and Senate. Senator Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo) and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak (D,I,C-Cheektowaga) were able to guide Jay-J’s Law through both houses of the Legislature to help bring justice to Jay-J, a three-year-old boy who suffered severe abuse at the hands of his own father in 2011.
Kennedy authored Jay-J’s Law in late 2011 to improve the state’s aggravated assault codes, and since then, he and Gabryszak have fought alongside Jay-J’s family – grandparents Tabitha and Joseph Retzer and Uncle Kevin and Aunt Chris Retzer – to finally secure Senate and Assembly approval of this important measure to protect children from abuse. Jay-J’s Law will help lead to stiffer penalties against severe, repeat child abuse by extending the look-back period, from three to 10 years, for previous convictions to be considered in cases of repeat abuse.
“This is a long-awaited, hard-fought victory and an important step toward securing justice for Jay-J,” said Senator Kennedy. “Jay-J’s Law will pry open the look-back window from three to 10 years, and empower law enforcement to impose aggravated assault charges on abusers that have a history of severely and repeatedly hurting defenseless children. Jay-J’s story of recovery and the tireless fight of the Retzer family have been the driving forces behind this movement to strengthen state law against child abuse. Without their hard work and persistence, Jay-J’s Law may have never made it through the Senate and Assembly. This fight is not yet over. We must do all we can to prevent child abuse and ensure those who hurt children are kept behind bars for a long, long time."
“I am thrilled that the Assembly and the Senate were able to come together and help pass this critical bill into law in honor of Jay-J,” said Assemblyman Gabryszak. “This is the first step in increasing penalties for repeat child abusers, but we still have a long road ahead of us. Child abuse is not a crime that should ever be taken lightly, and it is my hope that Jay-J’s Law will encourage follow up legislation that will tighten the punishments for child abuse in the near future."
“Jay-J’s Law is a common-sense bill to make sure violent abusers are punished for hurting children. It won’t change the suffering Jay-J went through – or the struggles he faces now – but Jay-J’s Law will help protect other children across New York State,” said Jay-J’s Uncle Kevin Retzer. “We’re thrilled the Senate and Assembly finally reached an agreement to get Jay-J’s Law passed this year. It was a long fight, but we were happy to put in the hard work. Throughout this effort, Senator Kennedy and Assemblyman Gabryszak stood at our sides and helped us navigate Jay-J’s Law through the Senate and Assembly. We want to thank them and the WNY Delegation for working so hard on behalf of Jay-J.”
Jay-J’s Law amends the crime of aggravated assault upon a person less than 11-years-old by increasing the look-back period of a previous offense from three to 10 years. Jay-J’s father was first convicted of third-degree assault after beating another one of his sons and breaking his arm in 2007. Four years later, he left Jay-J with 11 fractured bones, a severe seizure disorder and a lifetime of developmental delays. Since the look-back period at that time was only three years, Jay-J’s father missed an aggravated assault charge by only one year despite his history of violence against children. That’s why the lawmakers say an increased look back period is a vital first step toward protecting children from repeated abuse.
“Since the start of this fight, we’ve worked to make one thing clear: New York State needs to get tough on child abuse,” Kennedy said. “It starts with Jay-J’s Law, and must go on until we have, once and for all, secured justice for Jay-J and all survivors of child abuse across our state. We must always remain diligent in our efforts to protect New York’s children and relentless in our pursuit of even stronger penalties for those who hurt kids.”
“Extended look back periods enable prosecutors and judges to better identify recidivists who qualify for enhanced penalties upon subsequent conviction,” Gabryszak added. “While laws exist to protect children from abuse, many offenders can escape appropriate punishment because the sentencing judge or prosecutor may not have access to the entire record of the accused. Although no one single solution exists to establish a system in which the look-back period is appropriate for each conviction of a repeat offender, it is our goal to differentiate between unique offenders and hardcore recidivists."
This expanded look-back period of 10 years is a common-sense reform to a legal code that aims to provide special protections for children under 11 years old. It will help lead to longer prison sentences for repeat child abusers. When individuals are charged with numerous crimes for their violent acts, it becomes more difficult to plea out of certain charges or plea down to a soft prison sentence. Under Jay-J’s Law, far more repeat abusers will be charged with the crime of aggravated assault upon a person less eleven years old, and it will be punishable by up to four years in prison.
“We know our work is not yet done, and we’re going to keep fighting to make sure severe penalties are imposed when children become victims of severe or repeat abuse,” said Jay-J’s Aunt Chris Retzer. “We hope Jay-J’s Law will help inspire our friends and neighbors in Western New York and across the state to speak up for our children and help end child abuse.”
Earlier this year, Kennedy successfully moved Jay-J’s Law through the Senate. An amended version was passed in the Assembly Friday, and the Senate approved the amended bill early Saturday morning. The bill will now go to the Governor to be signed into law.
Kennedy and Gabryszak are already preparing drafts of new legislation to further strengthen the state’s laws against child abuse with a special focus on stiffening penalties – which they will push for during next year’s legislative session.
Senator Timothy M. Kennedy represents the New York State Senate’s 63rd District, which is comprised of the town of Cheektowaga, the city of Lackawanna and nearly all of the city of Buffalo. More information is available at http://kennedy.nysenate.gov.