By Joseph Spector
Albany Bureau Chief
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed legislation that would increase penalties for repeat child abusers.
Jay-J's law, named after a Buffalo-area boy who was abused by his father, allows law enforcement to charge someone with aggravated assault if they have a prior conviction in the past 10 years. The previous law had allowed for a three-year look back into a person's criminal record of child abuse.
"Assaulting a child is a heinous crime that must be met with the strictest of punishments," Cuomo said in a statement. "By enacting Jay-J's Law we are taking a step forward in safeguarding children across New York state and immediately ensuring that repeat offenders are met with heightened penalties that match the seriousness of their actions."
The law will allow police to charge a repeat child abuser with an E felony of aggravated assault. The charge carries a maximum four-year prison sentence.
The previous law limited the look-period to three years, so the charges prior to the three years were limited to a misdemeanor charge that was punishable for up to one year in a local jail. The changes take effect immediately, Cuomo said.
Western New York lawmakers and the family of Jay-J Bolvin have lobbied for the law in Albany, and the state Legislature passed the measure last June.
The two-year-old boy was severely beaten by his father, Jeremy Bolvin, in 2011. Four years early, the man was convicted of third-degree assault for beating another one of his sons. Yet the 2011 charges were limited to misdemeanor assault because it happened outside the three-year window.
Kevin Retzer, the boy's uncle, said he's pleased with the law change. The boy's family said Jay-J has suffered from a seizure disorder and other developmental problems because of the violent shaking and abuse from his father.
"Jay-J's Law is a common-sense bill to make sure violent abusers are punished for hurting children," Retzer said in a news release issued by Cuomo's office. "It won't change the suffering Jay-J went through - or the struggles he faces now - but Jay-J's law will help protect other children across New York state."
Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo, and Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, D-Cheektowaga, sponsored the legislation.
"As the father of three children, I can't imagine how anyone could ever harm a child. We must do all we can to keep New York's kids safe, and it starts with Jay-J's Law," Kennedy said in a statement.