A bill more than a decade in the making that establishes stricter sentences for child abusers received just one dissenting vote in the Ohio House—a Cleveland Democrat opposed to mandatory minimum sentences.
In a vote of 84-1, Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) cast the lone nay vote against Destiny’s bill, named for Ohio native Destiny Shepherd who suffered permanent brain damage when she was violently abused at just 16 months old. Her abuser, a then-boyfriend of the mother, spent eight years in prison as penalty for throwing Shepherd against a wall and putting her on life support.
Shepherd’s mother has been fighting to increase sentences for child abuse ever since, and while several iterations of the bill named for her daughter have seen the House floor before, it is finally expected to pass this year.
“Destiny received a life sentence while her attacker received just eight years. She has to pay the consequences for a crime she never committed when her attacker is able to do things without thought or consideration,” Shepherd added.
The bill, which is expected to pass the Ohio Senate, would impose an additional sentence of six years for “an offender who is convicted of or pleads guilty to felonious assault if the offender is convicted of or pleads guilty to a specification that the victim suffered permanent disabling harm and that the victim was under 10 years of age at the time of the offense.”
Howse voted against the bill because of its minimum sentencing provision, which she believes leaves “no room for negotiations or really trying to understand what actually happened.”
“There may be some unforeseen circumstances. The judge and/or the defendant would never have the opportunity to truly plead their case, and they will get the additional sentencing, which I believe that’s wrong,” she told The Daily Advocate.
“We’re not allowing any room for people in the event it may be a mistake,” Howse added. “I don’t believe it is the right approach if we are trying to help rehabilitate people.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Stephanie Howse” by Stephanie Howse.