Cy­ber bul­ly­ing leg­is­la­tion will be sub­ject of hear­ing

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Pa­tri­cia Doxsey pdoxsey@free­manon­ pat­ti­at­free­man on Twit­ter

A plan to make cy­ber bul­ly­ing a mis­de­meanor with a po­ten­tial jail sen­tence had moved for­ward with the Ul­ster County Leg­is­la­ture ap­prov­ing a res­o­lu­tion to set a pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posed lo­cal law.

The mea­sure, un­veiled in Jan­uary by Ul­ster County Ex­ec­u­tive Michael Hein, would make it a crime for a per­son, “with in­tent to threaten abuse, in­tim­i­date, tor­ment or oth­er­wise in­flict emo­tional harm on a mi­nor,” elec­tron­i­cally trans­mit in­for­ma­tion not of pub­lic con­cern that they know will in­flict emo­tional harm; elec­tron­i­cally trans­mit pri­vate sex­ual in­for­ma­tion, or pho­to­graphs or videos of un­cov­ered breasts, but­tocks or gen­i­tals of an­other; elec­tron­i­cally trans­mit false sex­ual in­for­ma­tion about an­other; or know­ingly ap­pro­pri­ate the name or like­ness of an­other.

Leg­is­la­tors this week voted 19-3 to hold a pub­lic hear­ing on the pro­posed law at 6:10 p.m. Dec. 13. Leg­is­la­tors David Don­ald­son, D-Kingston, John Parete, D-Boiceville, and Richard Parete, a Demo­crat from Ac­cord who cau­cuses with the Repub­li­cans, voted against the mea­sure.

As pro­posed, vi­o­la­tors of the law un­der the age of 16 would be ad­ju­di­cated as ju­ve­nile delin­quents and pros­e­cuted in Fam­ily Court. Vi­o­la­tors over the age of 16 would be charged with a mis­de­meanor. A first-time of­fender could be sen­tenced to pro­ba­tion for the crime; re­peat of­fend­ers could face jail time.

Hein said he pro­posed the law be­cause cy­ber bul­ly­ing has the po­ten­tial for “enor­mous detri­men­tal ef­fects on stu­dents.” The leg­is­la­tion, he said, “pro­vides the tools to law en­force­ment to charge those who en­gage in cy­ber bul­ly­ing ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at in­flict­ing emo­tional harm.”

Some leg­is­la­tors are con­cerned the law could turn teenagers into crim­i­nals.

“I’d rather not see us cre­ate more vic­tims by these kids get­ting an un­clas­si­fied mis­de­meanor,” Don­ald­son said. “I re­ally think we need ed­u­ca­tion, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion first.”

That con­cern was shared by Leg­is­la­tor Daniel Hepp­ner, D-Woodstock, though he said he was sat­is­fied with promises from the Hein ad­min­is­tra­tion and leg­isla­tive lead­er­ship that pro­grams will be put in place to give lo­cal judges an op­tion other than con­vict­ing of­fend­ers of a mis­de­meanor.

“We’re def­i­nitely go­ing to work to make sure there are mul­ti­ple pro­grams avail­able to the judges,” said Leg­is­la­ture Chair­man Ken Ronk.

Ronk, R-Wal­lkill, said the pro­posed law was amended to re­quire an­nual re­ports to the Leg­is­la­ture de­tail­ing the num­ber of cases, the ages of the ac­cused, the charges and the dis­po­si­tions. The re­ports would be pre­pared by the Ul­ster County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, which pros­e­cutes adult crimes, and the County At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, which pros­e­cutes crimes com­mit­ted by ju­ve­niles.

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