The 'Ice Bucket Challenge’ attack on a Bay Village teen with autism has inspired a proposed state law that would mandate penalties for crimes against the elderly and disabled.
The bill would require judges to hand down a two-year sentence to anyone convicted of a felony against certain groups.
State Representative Bill Patmon, a Democrat representing District 10 in Cleveland, introduced House Bill 648 Tuesday.
Patmon said he was inspired to action after a group of teens were charged for pouring a bucket filled with urine, spit and water over a 15-year-old with autism under the guise of the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.'
“It was visceral for me, for my grandson is autistic,” Patmon said. “So, for me, it was quite personal to see something like that happen.”
He said he's also heard from elderly members of his district who are fearful of being preyed on.
“Those two things kind of struck me as something we can and should do something about,” he said, adding that he hopes the legislation would deter crime. “If this bill deters one crime, it's been worth the effort.”
Opponents said the bill is unnecessary.
Former Cuyahoga County prosecutor and current Case Western Reserve University law instructor Carmen Naso said state law already covers crimes against the elderly and disabled, and judges should have flexibility in sentencing.
“The sentencing statute already makes a provision that courts should consider whether or not the injury suffered by the individual is exacerbated by their physical or mental condition,” Naso said. “There’s already a law on the books that would cover this. Let the courts use these laws; don't add new laws.”
Naso said over-legislating has led to overcrowding in the prison system, and the legislation won’t prevent crime.
“I don't think it's going to have any effect, whatsoever. Everybody knows you shouldn't commit a crime against someone who's elderly or disabled,” he said.
Still, Patmon said the bill has already picked up bipartisan support, and he's optimistic about its chances.
The bill would not affect the Bay Village case, since the five teens involved were charged with misdemeanors, and the bill only applies to felonies.
Three Bay Village teens charged with assault and disorderly conduct are due in juvenile court November 6. Two others, charged with disorderly conduct, will enter into a diversion program.