Republican Assemblyman Proposes Bill to Protect Intellectually Handicapped Abuse Victims

Written by William Hale

Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Porterville) has proposed AB 2017 — the bill would extend the right of non-witness testimonies to account for sexual assault or abuse to victims who are under the mental age of 12.

This hearsay rule currently applies to victims who are under the chronological age of 12, but the rule does not apply to disabled or intellectually handicapped people that have the mental capacity of a 12-year-old or younger. However, AB 2017 is being obstructed in the California legislature despite support from District Attorneys, Crime Victims United, and the Peace Officers’ Research Association of California.

“…more measures are needed to protect our most vulnerable victims in these sad cases. Your bill will help prosecutors hold offenders in these cases accountable, while still affording the courts a fair process for protecting the rights of the accused,” said the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA).

This legal loophole enabled an unprosecuted case of sexual abuse in Mathis’s district, sparking the assemblyman to introduce the bill. A friend of the victim’s mother detailed the situation in a Facebook post, “The mother believed that her daughter’s rapist would go to jail. When the Tulare County District Attorney’s office reviewed the case, her daughter was labeled an ‘unreliable witness’ due to her disabilities and the case was closed.”

The rationale for opposing AB 2017 — a bill that would ensure further protection and justice for intellectually handicapped individuals — is not clear.

In an email from the Public Safety Committee expressed to Mathis’s office on March 16th, the committee said that the Chair “will not be supporting the bill.” However, a staff member from the Committee also said that “the bill will be heard in committee on March 29th.”

Photo Cred: AgriPulse