We Virginians certainly have plenty of disagreements on political issues, but I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to protecting Virginia’s children from sexual predators, traffickers and child pornographers, there’s not much disagreement, partisan or otherwise, among 99.9% of us. Clearly, we need to be doing everything we can to protect children. End of story.
Over the past few years, Virginia has moved in exactly this direction. For instance, in 2010, the General Assembly voted unanimously to fund the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Fund – better known as “Alicia’s Law – with “a $10 additional fee on each felony and misdemeanor conviction.” Since then, the Fund has raised millions of dollars to help beef up law enforcement and other measures to protect children. And it’s working: “In 2009, Southern Virginia law officers made 78 arrests; in 2011, they made 130. In Northern Virginia, 98 arrests were made in 2008, compared with 202 in 2011.” Obviously, we want to continue and expand these efforts as much as possible; it’s pretty much a no-brainer.
By the way, “Alicia’s Law” is named after Alicia Kozakiewicz, who was abducted at 13 years old by a 38-year-old Virginia man, “held hostage, tortured and sexually assaulted for four days in a weapon-filled dungeon.” Thankfully, Alicia was rescued, and today is an advocate for protecting children from abuse, exploitation, pornography, etc., so that what happened to her doesn’t happen to any other child – ever!
Anyway, here in Virginia, we have an “Alicia’s Law” on the books, the core provisions of which are listed here. Clearly, to make this law as effective as possible – something I would think we’d all want – it needs adequate funding. On that subject, see here for a story on how “actual collections have exceeded [the initial $1.8 million] projection by $650,000 annually,” and how advocates “want the additional money to go to the task forces to further their investigative work and address a backlog of evidence that has been gathered.” As Sen. Creigh Deeds said, “Talk is cheap…If you want to be really tough on crime, you’ve got to be willing to spend money.” (also note, even Ken Cuccinelli “gets it” on this one, pointing out that “[t]here is no substitute for putting a human brain and human eyes on the material that we’ve got to process”)
Just to be clear about this: the $650,000 is not new money, but funds that are already sitting in the special Alicia’s Law Fund. True, the funds could have been construed as extra or additional during the last budget cycle, because they were in excess of the amount the legislature projected would be raised and thus budgeted. However, there’s no guessing now; the McDonnell people now KNOW that the funds are coming in, and specifically into the fund, and they’re consciously TAKING them.
Which brings us to an email exchange between Camille Cooper, Director of Legislative Affairs at PROTECT; and McDonnell administration staffers; in which the McDonnell administration staff was dismissive of Cooper, not to mention highly forgetful (oblivious?) to the fact that there had been – as the McDonnell folks put it – “earlier communications with our office on this issue.” For instance, Director of Policy Development and Deputy Counselor to the Governor, Jeff Palmore, wrote Cooper (on 12/13/11) that “it is too late in the budget development process for our office to consider your request,” even though, as Cooper pointed out in response (on 12/14/11), “we did make the initial request back on November 15th…and we had a subsequent conversation…about this request, so I’m surprised by the response that it’s too late.” Cooper also specifically stated, “I just wanted to make sure that The Governor is actually aware of our request and that the response below is one of informed consent on the Governor’s part. Can you please clarify?” Amusingly (?), Palmore then replied, “Your email reminded me of your earlier communications with our office on this issue…You did reach out to us in time–my apologies…your request was considered during the budget development process.” Well, alrighty then.
In addition, here is a letter from PROTECT (from 12/13/11) to Gov. McDonnell, requesting among other things that McDonnell “remove the language in your proposed budget which allows the ICAC Fund to be ‘swept.’” Apparently, the McDonnell administration considered PROTECT’s request on funding of Alicia’s Law…and rejected it. Nice, huh? (Also note: Alicia wrote to Bob McDonnell on 11/10/11, and never received a reply or even an acknowledgement. Lame.)
Fortunately, PROTECT is fighting back, as is Alicia Kozakiewicz herself. Please watch the video, in which Alicia explains what happened to her, why full funding of Alicia’s Law is so important, and why that’s now in jeopardy here in Virginia, thanks to Bob McDonnell. Here’s Alicia:
You won’t believe what’s happening now. Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to raid the Alicia’s Law fund, taking $650,000 a year, and it’s right in his budget. Now, it’s all in the hands of the Virginia legislature. If they care about stopping child predators and child pornographers, they’ve got to put back the money that Gov. Bob McDonnell took out in the next few days…Tell them to keep their hands off Alicia’s Law, that children’s lives are at stake!
So, please click here and add your voice to Alicia’s, PROTECT’s, and everyone else who cares about protecting children from the worst of the worst in our society. Please tell Bob McDonnell loudly and clearly: “Hands Off Alicia’s Law!” Thanks.