For Immediate Release: 4/5/18
Annapolis — On Wednesday, the Maryland Senate passed the House version of the Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act with no amendments, clearing the way for Governor Larry Hogan’s signature transitioning it into law. The legislative victory marks the culmination of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s five-year effort to arm prosecutors with the tools they need at trial to face serial rapists and child molesters.
State’s Attorney Mosby joined Delegate Marice Morales of Montgomery County and the leadership of several women’s organizations last year at a Women’s Rally in Annapolis, at which time she stood before the enthused crowd and spoke passionately about the need for legislation that would give Maryland prosecutors and courts the tools they need to ensure just outcomes in serial sexual assault and serial child molestation cases by allowing juries to be informed of a defendant’s prior similar sexual assaultive behavior.
The Repeat Sexual Predator Prevention Act will bring Maryland Rules of Evidence closer to the Federal Rules of Evidence, which already allow for the admissibility of prior sexually assaultive behavior in the prosecution of serial child molesters and sexual predators. Under Federal Rules 413, evidence of other sexual assaults is admissible in a criminal trial in which the defendant is charged with sexual assault. Similarly, Federal Rule 414 permits the introduction of evidence involving a past sexual molestation in cases involving sexual abuse of a child.
Different versions of this state legislation have failed since Congress passed the Federal Rules in the mid-1990s.
“This is a victorious day for women, men, and children survivors in Maryland," said State's Attorney Mosby. "We’ve closed a loophole in our laws that benefited sexual predators. Time’s up for serial sexual predators, and this has been a long fought battle—five years of going to Annapolis and testifying. I’d like to say thanks to Lisa Smith, the Director of our Legislative team, as well as Senator Jim Brochin and Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary for their leadership in the Senate and the House.”
In Maryland, serial rapists and serial child molesters understand that their predatory behavior and often their status as a sex offender is inadmissible in trial. Therefore, they often take advantage of this legal loophole even when confronted with DNA evidence by claiming the sex with their victims was consensual or that the child victim is fabricating their attack.
For years, Nelson Clifford—a convicted serial rapist—used this loophole in the law to escape justice four times before he was finally convicted in 2015 under the Mosby administration and sentenced to more than 31-1/2 years in prison. Using the DNA evidence to his advantage, Clifford was able to convince juries that his brutal attacks were consensual sexual encounters, knowing that prosecutors were forbidden from telling juries about his other sexual assault accusations and registration as a sexual offender.
Clifford is just one of many serial predators from across Maryland who have been protected by this loophole.
The lead sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Jim Brochin, has fought for this legislation for more than a decade. And since that time, the legislation has gained widespread support from survivors, advocacy organizations, prosecutors and law enforcement throughout Maryland; as well as more than 100 unique co-sponsors in this year’s General Assembly. Del. Vanessa Atterbeary sponsored the House version of the legislation this year after being inspired by testimony of survivors and advocates during the 2017 legislative session.
The bill was a priority of the Women’s Caucus, the Black Caucus, the Latino Caucus, and the Asian-American & Pacific-Islander Caucus. It has also been backed by Governor Larry Hogan for two years. The bill has finally passed with support from House and Senate leadership. In particular, Committee Chairs Senator Bobby Zirkin and Delegate Joe Vallario ensured the successful passage of a strong bill that will change many lives.