Gov. George Pataki on Thursday proposed a new bill to make terrorism a state crime punishable by death, saying state prosecutors need the same tools their federal counterparts now have.
Pataki's bill would make New York State, where New York City's World Trade Center was bombed in 1993, the first to specifically make terrorism a broad new state crime, Katherine Lapp, state director of criminal justice, said.
"This legislation will send a loud and clear message to potential terrorists that New Yorkers will not be intimidated and we have every intention of fighting back," Pataki said.
Devorah Halberstam, whose 16-year-old son, Ari, was killed seven years ago when a Lebanese gunman sprayed the van he was taking across the Brooklyn Bridge, said at a news conference attended by the Republican governor that New York needs its own anti-terrorism laws because federal prosecutors initially attributed her son's death to road rage.
The bill, if approved by the state Legislature, would subject convicted terrorists to the death penalty if their acts are aimed at intimidating or coercing civilians, influencing government policy or affecting government actions.
Only Illinois has an anti-terrorism law, and it is limited because it only applies to people who solicit or materially help a group that commits terrorism outside the United States. "It doesn't necessarily cover terrorism groups here," Lapp said.
Under Pataki's bill, making terrorist threats would bring a sentence of up to seven years. People who solicit or support an act of terrorism could face up to 15 years.