Casey targets witness intimidation with bill

COURTNEY MARABELLA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sen. Bob Casey (left), accompanied by Leland R. Kent, introduces witness-protection bill.
COURTNEY MARABELLA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Sen. Bob Casey (left), accompanied by Leland R. Kent, introduces witness-protection bill.
Posted: April 28, 2013

NOTING THAT 13 people were killed in Philadelphia between 1999 and 2009 due to witness intimidation, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey yesterday announced plans to introduce a bill to make such intimidation a federal crime.

"Witness intimidation is a cowardly crime that has a chilling effect on the work of our region's law enforcement," Casey said at a news conference at 30th Street Station. "This legislation will give law enforcement and prosecutors additional tools to combat witness intimidation. I'm hopeful we'll get a bipartisan consensus to pass this legislation this year."

The bill would make it a federal crime to kill or attempt to kill a witness, or to use physical force or the threat of force to intimidate a witness.

It would also make the penalty for killing a witness the same as in federal court, including the possibility of a death sentence. It increases the maximum penalty to 30 years in jail for attempted murder or the use of physical force against a witness. There would be a maximum 20-year prison term for other violations under the State Witness Protection Act.

The bill also provides for federal competitive grants to state and local governments to provide protection and assistance to witnesses.

Leland Kent, executive director of Victim, Witness and Neighborhood Services for the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, said that in the 2010-11 fiscal year, the office helped 82 families move to protect a witness. In 2011-12, the office helped 150 families move and in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 145 families have been moved.


On Twitter: @ValerieRussDN

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