|Posted:||May 21, 2021 11:52 AM|
|From:||Senator Lisa Baker and Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Amending the Stalking Statute (§ 2709.1) to more Accurately Address Cyberstalking|
|When Madison Zezzo was just 13 years old, she was “stalked” on social media by her friend’s 51 year old father, Shane Holderer. Mr. Holder sent Madison sexually explicit messages and sought to have a sexual encounter with her. Incredibly, for his actions, Mr. Holderer only received a sentence of probation and counseling.
Undeterred, Mr. Holderer then created new social media accounts and again targeted Madison. But this time his obsession emboldened his desire to see her. After months of additional cyberstalking, Mr. Holderer’s attempts to meet with Madison were eventually intercepted by the Pennsylvania State Police during a sting operation. Only after his second conviction, and only after endangering Madison for the second time, did Mr. Holderer receive a prison sentence of a minimum of 18 months.
Under our current statute, cyberstalking is not specifically identified. Stalkers are generally guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree for their first offense, unless the stalker has been convicted of certain crimes of violence, or certain sexual offenses in the past, in which case, the offense shall be a felony of the third degree. Like Madison’s stalker, they can continue to inflict even greater amounts of emotional, psychological, and sometimes physical abuse on their victims.
To further protect our children and constituents, we are seeking to amend Title 18, Section 2709.1 of the Pennsylvania Statutes to more accurately address the reality of cyberstalking. The bill would specifically identify as stalking the repeated use of social media or the internet under circumstances which demonstrate (i) an intent to place another person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress, or (ii) an intentional, knowing or reckless placement of another in reasonable fear of bodily injury or which causes substantial emotional distress to such other person. The bill would also expand the list of crimes considered “crimes of violence” and would upgrade a first offense to a felony of a third degree if the victim was under 16 and the perpetrator was over 18 and was at least 4 years older than the victim.
The actions of cyberstalkers in this technology-driven society must be proportionally and appropriately punished to help prevent Madison’s experience from becoming the reality experienced by other children in the future. We hope you will join us in co-sponsoring this important bill.
Introduced as SB703