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Hartford - The General Assembly's Judiciary Committee passed a bill Monday that would impose a minimum mandatory sentence on a person convicted of intentionally striking someone in the head without provocation and rendering the victim unconscious.
Committee members passed the bill 31-10, and it now goes to the Senate.
Senate Bill 429 aims to address a game called "Knockout," which proponents of the bill said has become popular among youth.
"This isn't just kids playing around, having fun, although they think that is what it is because they have decided it is a quote, unquote game," state Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. "But there are pregnant women who have lost children because of it, and there are people who have had brain damage because of it. This is a serious thing. If at the very least this sends a message to these kids who think this is funny, I think we have done our job."
Currently someone who intentionally causes serious physical injury has committed a second-degree assault, which is a Class D felony, punishable by a one-to-five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000. The act of rendering someone unconscious without provocation would be covered under current law.
However, this bill would require a minimum two-year sentence for perpetrators of a "knockout" assault, and would require the automatic transfer of perpetrators age 16 or 17 to the adult court. A prosecutor could file a motion to transfer the minor back to the juvenile court.
The General Assembly has passed minimum mandatory sentencing legislation for other types of assaults, such as assault on an elderly, and on a blind or pregnant person.
Some lawmakers opposed the bill and expressed concern over its necessity.
"I am not someone who favors creating mandatory penalties, particularly given that I am not sure we have information that the knockout game, one, was a real problem in this state and, two, is an ongoing problem in this state," state Sen. Gary Holder-Winfield, D-New Haven, said.
State Rep. Patricia Dillon, D-New Haven, said sending minors to adult court went against everything the legislature had been trying to do to protect minors.
"Juveniles are a class that are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and particularly when they are thrown into the adult system," Dillon said. "… I am very concerned about the impact of this bill."