Members of the Senate Majority Conference recently announced the introduction of legislation designed to crack down on the alarming trend of recording criminal acts of violence with the intent of distributing them on the Internet for entertainment purposes.
The legislation, announced at a Capitol news conference, comes in response to an increasing number of violent attacks orchestrated and recorded by individuals who want to post the videos on Internet sharing sites, such as YouTube.com and MySpace.com.
“It is unimaginable to think that anyone would willfully look to physically attack another individual with the expressed intent of videotaping the act and placing it on the Internet for others to watch as if it were some form of legitimate entertainment,” said Senator Joseph Robach (R-C-I-WF). “The sadistic thought process seems to focus on the recording and Internet posting of the violent act itself. By passing this legislation, we are letting these individuals know that this brutal trend affecting our children and our homeless will not be tolerated.”
“As a society we should be appalled that senseless acts of violence are being videotaped and circulated as ‘entertainment’ on the Internet,” said Senator Maltese (Queens), a former Assistant District Attorney and Deputy Chief of the Homicide Bureau. “Anyone who commits a crime should be punished, but I believe we should have additional penalties for those sick perverts who think its amusing to videotape their heinous acts and send them out for entertainment of other deviant minds.”
“The internet is a wonderful resource that, when used properly, enriches our lives in so many ways,” said Senator Martin Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), Chairman of the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices. “Unfortunately, more and more individuals are using the Internet as a tool to promote senseless, violent criminal acts. An increasing number of disturbing videos have been circulating on Internet sites, depicting horrible acts of violence against young children and the homeless for the purpose of ‘entertainment.’ We will not continue to tolerate such abhorrent behavior -- this legislation will ensure the people responsible for these videos are properly punished.”
“Using the Internet to glorify acts of violence is outrageous and reprehensible behavior that has to be stopped. This measure will hold these people accountable and punish them as the criminals they are,” said Senator Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport). “By eliminating any ability to gain notoriety and acknowledgment, we can make sure these criminals are unable to victimize their prey twice. This will help us take a step forward toward ending the type of senseless violence that seems to be on the rise in our society.”
"It's disturbing to see folks trying to achieve fame, attention and celebrity through criminal violent acts," said Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R-C, Rome). "Especially those that involve children. As technology evolves to improve people's lives or entertain them, we still need to pay attention to lawful behavior. If criminality is caught on a recorded media, then we need to use it as a tool to pursue and prosecute these offenders."
This bill creates the new crime of unlawful violent recording when a person commits an assault while knowingly capturing the crime with a recording device. In addition, a person who persuades others to commit crimes against each other for the purpose of recording, viewing, or broadcasting the crime would be guilty of conspiracy in the fourth degree, a class E felony. Both crimes would allow additional penalties of one and a half to four years in prison.
Earlier this year, a group of teenage girls in central Florida recorded the brutal beating of a sixteen-year-old girl and posted in on You Tube, where it was widely viewed. Just last month, in an incident thought to be inspired by the attack in Florida, a group of middle school girls in southern Indiana videotaped the beating of a twelve-year-old classmate and also posted it on the Internet.
Similarly, attacks against the homeless are gaining notoriety on video sharing sites. A group of high-school students recently went on a crime spree, recording violent attacks against the homeless -- including throwing smoke bombs at and setting fire to homeless individuals -- with the intent to become “famous” on the internet. Similar videos can be found on sites such as MySpace.com, entitled “Bum Hunter”, where homeless people are dragged from alleys as they sleep to be assaulted and degraded, modeled after the television show “Crocodile Hunter.”
Criminologists call these wild sprees “sport killings,” -- middle-class teens, with no criminal records who assault the homeless with bats, golf clubs and paintball guns for fun. Teens sometimes tape themselves in the act, and have said they were inspired by "Bumfights," a video series created in 2002 and sold on the Web that features homeless people pummeling each other for the promise of a few bucks or some alcohol.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, attacks against homeless individuals are at the highest level in almost a decade. In 2006, there were 122 attacks and 20 murders of homeless people.
In addition, the Senate is expected to act on related legislation to ensure students, parents and teachers have the resources they need to keep children safe while using the Internet. The bill (S.7051), sponsored by Senator Steve Saland (R-C-I, Poughkeepsie) directs the State Education Commissioner to work with the State Police, the New York State Office for Technology, and other appropriate resources to develop software and a handbook of guidelines concerning safe and responsible use of the Internet. The materials will be provided to students in grades three through twelve, as well as their parents or legal guardians.
“Children are trusting and they have no idea their Internet ‘friend’ could be a pedophile trolling the Internet looking for his next victim,” said Senator Saland. “Now that Internet access is prevalent in homes, sex offenders have found an easier way to find their prey. It is imperative that children know the pitfalls that may come with Internet use and become armed with the information they need to use the Internet safely.”