Sentencing rules for violent offenders face stiffening

Sentencing rules for violent offenders face stiffening

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The House is preparing to act this week on legislation to restrict parole eligibility for habitual, violent offenders, a key committee chairman said Monday, just days after an appeal by the family of a crime victim urged the House to take action on the proposal before a seven-week recess that begins Wednesday.

Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty (D-Chelsea), co-chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, said the House, hoping to secure rapid passage of the proposal, would strip away other components of a crime bill passed by the Senate that make sweeping changes to sentencing, drug, and gun laws.

“The other sections will be put on hold until we resume our sessions in January. We, I think, are very respectful of those issues that were raised but feel it’s imperative that we deal with the habitual recidivist portion of the legislation immediately,” O’Flaherty told the News Service. “I anticipate between now and the close of our business Wednesday at 12 midnight that there will be a debate on the House floor relative to that portion of the bill that the Senate sent over dealing with habitual recidivists.”

As passed by the Senate, the bill would eliminate parole eligibility for habitual offenders convicted of their third violent felony, a plan that supporters have long referenced as the three strikes proposal.

The decision by the House to move forward with a crackdown on repeat violent offenders puts lawmakers closer than ever to approving an anti-crime bill that Democratic legislative leaders have long resisted.

Some supporters have come to refer to the proposal as Melissa’s Bill, after Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old teacher who was raped and killed in 1999 by a habitual violent criminal. Her father, Les Gosule, has been pushing for legislation to restrict parole for repeat offenders since her death and gained traction last year, after a Woburn police officer was shot and killed by a paroled violent offender.

The House’s decision to strip out other components of the bill approved by the Senate could create a quandary for lawmakers, who may soon be asked to reconcile dramatically different bills. The Senate passed its crime bill unanimously, drawing support from members who supported the proposal’s provisions extending early parole eligibility to certain non-violent drug offenders.

The Senate bill is pending before the House Ways and Means Committee.