SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — Responding to the brutal gang rape incident of a minor in Richmond, California, Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), Vice Chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on Emergency Management, announced today the introduction of ‘fast track’ legislation, Assembly Bill 984, to close a loophole in state law that will hold witnesses accountable for not reporting violent crimes to authorities.
“Clearly there is a problem with existing law when witnesses to a crime are not held accountable for something as simple as calling the police,” said Nava. “As a society, what kind of message are we sending when we say it is okay to simply standby and watch a person being brutally victimized over and over again? Something needs to be done.”
A 1999 California law makes it illegal not to report a witnessed crime against a child under the age of 14, and is punishable as a misdemeanor with up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $1500. Nava’s AB 984 will remove the victim’s age threshold that requires an observer to report the act of a murder, rape or other violent crime.
On October 24th, 2009 a young woman in Richmond, only 16 years old, left her high school dance to get a ride from her father when she joined some young men and began drinking with them. They soon began their assault. Several of the men beat her, robbed her, and began repeatedly raping her while people looked on without taking any action for 2 ½ hours.
Police believe there were up to 10 attackers and anywhere from 15 to 20 people stopping to watch. Additionally, authorities said people took photos, laughed and some joined in as the girl was repeatedly assaulted. People came and went and no one called the police.
Because the victim was 16 at the time of the attack, law enforcement could not hold accountable the numerous witnesses to this brutal crime. They could not take them in for questioning. To date, only six individuals have been arrested and charged.
“This tragic incident highlights the need to close a loophole in state law. As a former prosecutor, I know the challenges in some cases for law enforcement to arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators of violent crimes such as the Richmond rape. It is imperative that existing law be changed so that these kinds of witnesses can be held accountable and justice be obtained for victims.”