The Jessica Lunsford Act received support from Galloway residents and their representatives in the State Legislature.
Christie signed the act, which provides mandatory minimum sentences of no fewer than 25 years to life, with no possibility of parole prior to a convicted person serving at least 25 years, for the act of aggravated sexual assault committed against a child under the age of 13, on Thursday afternoon.
The law provides flexibility to prosecutors in very limited circumstances for terms of no fewer than 15 years, only when such a plea is in the best interest of the victim as determined by plea guidelines established by the Attorney General’s Office.
Primary sponsors for the Jessica Lunsford Act included Senators Diane Allen, Tom Kean Jr., and Steve Oroho, and Assemblymembers Nancy Munoz, Mary Pat Angelini, and Allison McHose.
“The Jessica Lunsford Act is one of the most significant public safety bills to come before the Legislature,” Angelini said. “New Jersey’s children will now receive the protections they deserve from individuals who commit one of society’s most heinous crimes – sexual assault. Pedophiles have just been served notice that they are going away for a very long time.”
State Sen. Christopher Connors also supported the bill in the Senate, while Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman Diane C. Gove supported the assembly version of the bill.
“The enactment of the Jessica Lunsford Act marks a monumental achievement for New Jersey in establishing appropriate and fitting sentences for child sex offenders who commit the most heinous of crimes,” Connors said. “New Jersey, which is usually recognized as a national leader in the area of sex offender law, now joins most of the other states in the country that have already enacted the Jessica Lunsford Act. Enactment of this bipartisan initiative reinforces the zero-tolerance policy stance that must be maintained for child predators.”
Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by a registered sex offender in 2005. Lunsford was from Florida, and many states have enacted “Jessica’s Law” since.
Galloway resident Anna Jezycki has been at the forefront of a strong push to get the Jessica Lunsford Act passed into law in the state. She led an effort to get letters mailed to the state's 188 municipalities urging them to support the act.
When the legislation saw no movement in the legislature, she made it a point of contention to Connors, Rumpf and Gove when they visited Galloway in 2012, shortly after becoming the township’s representatives.
Following that meeting, the delegation from the Ninth Legislative District began an online petition drive calling for legislative action to be taken on the Jessica Lunsford Act as well as other sex offender legislation.
It wasn’t long before the bill moved out of committee and was approved by the Senate and the Assembly.
Christie signed the law on Thursday, removing New Jersey from the list of the few states that had yet to adopt the act.“Having sponsored this legislation for the better part of a decade, our Delegation could not be more pleased that the Jessica Lunsford Act is now law, especially in recognizing the large segment of our constituents who were supportive of this legislation for reasons of public safety," Rumpf said. "In the end, mandatory sentences that consist of extensive prison terms represent the most effective means of safeguarding our communities against sexual offenders from committing further acts of violence.”
“Victims’ interests will be better served under our judicial system as the courts would be enabled, under the Jessica Lunsford Act, to mandate that sexual predators serve sentences befitting of the brutal nature of their crimes,” Gove said. “Children are specifically identified under the Act as they can be targeted by sexual predators as being more vulnerable due to their age, size and maturity level. It is also important to note that the enactment of the legislation in New Jersey is another milestone reached in the efforts of Mark Lunsford, Jessica’s father, who continues to advocate for the 50 State passage of ‘Jessica’s Law.’”