Senate OKs tougher sentence for first-time sex offenders

By Todd Dorman of the Muscatine Journal Capital Bureau

DES MOINES — First-time sex offenders who strike children would serve a
mandatory 25-years-to-life prison sentence under legislation endorsed
Thursday by Republican and Democratic leaders in the evenly divided Iowa
Senate.

The bill, co-sponsored by 45 members of the 50-member Senate, targets
adults convicted of a sexual offense against a child under age 12. Judges
would determine the length of sentence and offenders would not be
eligible for parole.

“We believe it’s appropriate to have a zero-tolerance policy,” said
Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, R-Ankeny.

Lawmakers rolled out the bill in the midst of the high-profile trial of
Roger Bentley, a convicted sex offender accused of kidnapping, sexually
abusing and murdering 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids. Backers
of the bill argued Thursday that if it had been in place several years
ago, Bentley would still be in prison.

© 2006, Muscatine Journal, Muscatine, IA A Lee Enterprises subsidiary

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