Senate Passes Legislation To Impose Stiffer Penalties For Attacks On Elderly New Yorkers

Martin J. Golden

March 27, 2007

The New York State Senate today passed legislation (S.3684), sponsored by Senator Marty Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), to impose tougher penalties for physical assaults on senior citizens. The legislation was announced earlier this month at a Capitol news conference following the vicious attacks on Rose Morat, a 101-year-old Queens woman who was mugged on her way to church, and 85-year-old Solange Elizee, who was mugged and beaten just a half hour later by the same attacker.

While the assailant in these two cases could face robbery charges, under current law he would only face a misdemeanor charge for his physical attacks on the two elderly women. In addition, under current law, the penalties for the physical attack on the 101-year-old woman are the same penalties that would exist if the victim had been a 25-year-old football player.

"It absolutely sickens me to know that a criminal would target a senior citizen to commit such a violent attack," stated Senator Golden, Chairman of the State Senate Committee on Aging. "In recognition of these horrific attacks on two elderly residents of New York City, I knew that it was time to take immediate action to protect our senior citizens. Senior citizens should be able to feel safe on their streets and in their own neighborhoods. Criminals, cowards to be more exact, need to know that if they target and assault a senior citizen, they will go to jail for a long, long time. Having these menaces to society roaming our streets endangers the quality of life of all New Yorkers."

"It is not OK to attack anyone – ever. It’s definitely not okay to attack any part of our population, that for whatever reason can not defend themselves and seniors fall into that category," Senator Frank Padavan said (R-C, Bellerose). "It sickens me that anyone would want to assault someone who physically can’t fight back. In one day, two seniors right in my district were attacked and the delinquent behind these vicious crimes, under current law, can only be charged with a misdemeanor – that’s outrageous."

Following the attacks on March 5th, the Senate Majority Task Force on Critical Choices began to review the current laws governing physical attacks against the elderly. This review highlighted the fact that under existing law, these types of physical attacks on seniors are only class A misdemeanor offenses, carrying a potential penalty of up to one year in prison. In both of the muggings in Queens, the attacker could also face additional charges associated with the theft of property.

The legislation passed today would make it a class D or class E violent felony to assault any senior over the age of 70. The bill would also make it a class D or class E violent felony to assault someone age 60 or older who suffers from a disease or infirmity associated with advanced age. A class D violent felony conviction carries a potential penalty of up to 7 years in prison, while a class E felony conviction carries a potential penalty of up to 4 years in prison. As violent felony offenses, these crimes carry determinate sentences and the perpetrators will not be eligible for parole.

"AARP commends Senator Golden and his Senate colleagues for raising awareness and passing legislation to increase the punishment against individuals who bring harm to vulnerable older persons," said Fran Weatherwax, AARP Member and Volunteer Leader. "We as a society have an obligation to protect vulnerable people in our state."

"The shocking nature of these crimes brings to focus the vulnerability of the elderly in our communities," said Jean Krokenberger, Co-Chair of the Rensselaer County TRIAD. TRIAD, a nationwide organization established by the National Sheriffs' Association, is comprised of local law enforcement, district attorneys, county agencies that provide senior services and community leaders who work together to stop crimes, sexual assault and abuse of the elderly. "Only one in fourteen cases of crimes against seniors – including rape, robbery and assault – is ever reported, giving offenders a sense that it’s okay to beat and abuse our friends, neighbors and family members. This bill properly punishes criminals who prey on the elderly and shows our senior citizens that their safety and quality of life are our priorities."

"Those despicable criminals who would assault and victimize seniors, our parents and grandparents, deserve punishment equal to the heinous character of their crimes," said Senator Andrew Lanza (R, Staten Island).

"We cannot allow seniors to be targeted and assaulted simply because they are not physically able to defend themselves," said Senator Serphin Maltese (R, Queens). "When anyone gets mugged and assaulted I consider it to be a serious crime. But when a 101-year-old woman gets mugged and assaulted, it’s an outrageous and potentially life-threatening crime that clearly calls out for more severe penalties."

"There must be serious consequences for anyone who would prey on a defenseless elderly individual," said Senator John A. DeFrancisco (R-C-I-WF, Syracuse). "The Senate has championed many efforts to protect the most vulnerable members of our community. This measure, which will help to deter attackers and safeguard our senior citizens, is an extension of our dedication to making our streets safer and keeping our senior citizens out of harm’s way."

"We have a responsibility to protect all New Yorkers from violent crimes, but particularly
those who are more vulnerable like our children and elderly," Senator John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport). "This was a callous and despicable crime that cannot be tolerated and we need to send that message loud and clear."

"We need to make it very clear that if you attack a senior citizen, you will pay dearly," said Senator Joseph A. Griffo (R,C-Rome). "We value these members of our community far too much to not punish people who would hurt them to the fullest extent."

"The elderly are among our society's most vulnerable and it is not only appropriate but necessary that our laws provide added protection and increased penalties to safeguard them," said Senator Betty Little (R-C-I, Queensbury).

"The people of this state were saddened and sickened by the senseless violent assault and subsequent mugging of two elderly women, who were obviously targeted because their attacker believed that they were easy prey and would be unable to defend themselves," Senator Joseph Robach (R-C-I-WF, Rochester) said. "I am proud to support the passage of this legislation in the Senate which increases the penalties for violent attacks against the elderly. My goal is to protect every citizen in this state, especially our seniors and those viewed as more vulnerable so they can feel safe walking in their own neighborhoods."

The bill was sent to the Assembly.