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Countywide : Wilson Gets Support for Stance on Crime

Continuing his “tough on crime” message that has become the centerpiece of his reelection campaign, Gov. Pete Wilson on Tuesday received support from local law enforcement officers and crime survivors who also suggested that his anti-crime package could stand to get a little tougher.

But while the governor was whipping up public support for his anti-crime agenda, the Assembly Public Safety Committee was voting down a part of the package that would make murder in a carjacking or drive-by shooting a capital crime.

The bill, already rejected earlier this year by the committee, can come up again for reconsideration.

As he spoke to about two dozen law enforcement and crime victim advocates in Westminster, Wilson had not yet learned of the latest defeat of the bill and urged the local group to pressure the Assembly for a vote.

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He said some Assembly members have stated opposition to the bill because they are philosophically opposed to the death penalty, but he argued that the committee members “should at least allow their colleagues the opportunity to cast a vote on the floor. . . . In effect, what you have now are 32 million Californians being held hostage by four (committee) votes.”

Wilson also heard several suggestions from the police chiefs of Buena Park, Huntington Beach, Placentia and Westminster and Orange County Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi on how to strengthen laws against violent criminals. They also requested $750,000 for the countywide expansion of a program founded in Westminster, which teams up prosecutors, probation officers and local police to go after gang leaders.

Roy Wagel, 29, of Fountain Valley, who was left paralyzed after a carjacking three years ago, told the governor that the statute of limitations on attempted murder cases should be expanded. Even if his attacker were to be caught, the legal time limit on prosecution has already run out.

“I was kind of appalled that, based on my survival, the statute of limitations is three years,” Wagel told the governor. “There’s no reason for (a violent criminal) to think about the consequences.”

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Karen Lott, 46, of Lake Forest, who began a campaign against gang violence after a 1992 shooting injured her then-16-year-old son, also argued that those convicted of attempted murder should receive the same punishment doled out to convicted murderers.

Pointing to her son and Wagel, Lott said: “Just because they survived a violent, violent shooting doesn’t lessen the crime committed against them. . . . No one knows the way that it affects a family, no one knows the pain and suffering we go through, no one understands it unless they walk in our shoes.”

Instead of Wilson’s proposal to lower the legal age that a juvenile can be tried as an adult from 16 to 14, Lott said the law should apply to anyone over the age of 12 who commits a violent crime.

Later, in response to reporters’ questions, Wilson said the federal crime bill awaiting final approval in Congress “is all right.”

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“It’s better than nothing, now that it is freed of the absurd racial justice amendment,” he said, referring to a provision that was deleted that would have allowed Death Row inmates to challenge their sentences by using statistical evidence to show racial bias in the system.

Concerning a bill by state Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange), which calls for up to 10 strikes of a wooden paddle for convicted juvenile graffiti vandals, Wilson downplayed the proposed punishment in the bill.

“What’s more important than the corporal punishment aspect of the thing is public humiliation of some kind,” Wilson said. “I also think . . . (parents) should be made to pay restitution for whatever is required to cure the defacement of the property, whether it’s public or private property.”


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