WASHINGTON, D.C. (WHTM) — New legislation combatting online predators is headed to the president’s desk for signing.
After a years-long fight, the Combat Online Predators Act aims to enhance federal criminal penalties for stalkers by up to five years if the victim is a minor.
The bill, which received bipartisan support, passed the Senate last October and was approved by the House Tuesday night. Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in the Senate, and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.-1) in the House led the bill.
“Today is an important day in our Nation’s endless fight to better protect our children and curtail predatory behavior. I am pleased that the House passed the Combat Online Predators Act today and I am grateful to the Zezzo family for their tireless advocacy of this important legislation,” said Senator Casey. “This bipartisan bill will give judges additional tools to ensure that perpetrators who stalk or cyberstalk children are held accountable with serious penalties. I urge the President to sign Combat Online Predators swiftly into law so that we can continue the fight to keep our children safe from predatory behavior.”
Senator Toomey also commended the House and Zezzo family for their dedication.
“House passage of the Combat Online Predators Act speaks to the remarkable dedication of the entire Zezzo family for keeping children safe and ensuring there are strong penalties for monsters who stalk and cyberstalk children,” said Senator Toomey. “Madison and her parents, Erin and Tony, deserve our gratitude for helping get this legislation through Congress, and I look forward to the president signing it into law.”
The Combat Online Predators Act was inspired by the story of the Zezzo family of Bucks County, Pennsylvania whose teenaged daughter started getting strange messages from her friend’s dad when she was just 13 years old. The behavior escalated.
Despite the stalking being sexual in nature, the then-51-year-old stalker pleaded guilty only to a misdemeanor stalking charge and was sentenced to probation and counseling. Three years later, in 2016, the same stalker began making contact again. This time, he was arrested in a sting by local police and sentenced to between 18 months and seven years in state prison.
- Why is Harris the 49th vice president when Biden is the 46th president?
- Girl, 9, dies after being shot in head in Philadelphia home
- Read the full transcript: President Joe Biden’s full inaugural address
- Major phone outage in Adams, Cumberland and Franklin Counties, 9-1-1 affected
- Super Host? Bucs can become 1st to play Super Bowl at home