Because so many witnesses to criminal acts are reluctant to testify out of fear of retaliation, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey introduced a bill earlier this year that, if passed, would make it a federal crime to intimidate witnesses.
City budgets don’t have the resources to move a witness to another state and create new identities, but Casey’s State Witness Protection Act would offer stiffer penalties against criminals who attempt to escape prosecution through intimidation.
“Despite the strong leadership of officials and law enforcement, Philadelphia is grappling with violent crime,” Casey said in a press release. “Witness intimidation is a major obstacle in the pursuit of justice, and the legislation I’m announcing will help law enforcement tackle the problem and put more criminals behind bars.”
The State Witness Protection Act would make it a federal crime to:
• kill, attempt to kill, or use physical force to threaten or intimidate a witness
• influence, delay, or prevent the testimony of an individual in a State proceeding
• retaliate against a witness for their attendance at a State proceeding or providing information to a law enforcement officer
The bill would also set tough new maximum penalties for witness protection, including 30 years imprisonment in the case of attempted murder or the use of physical force, and up to 20 years for other cases of witness intimidation; and increase federal sentencing guidelines for obstruction and witness intimidation.
The proposal was introduced in February 2012. So far the bill has not come up for a Senate vote.
“Our bill is currently with the Judiciary Committee in the Senate,” said Casey’s press secretary, John Rizzo. “We have recently made progress getting support for the bill, gaining the co-sponsorship of Senators Schumer and Klobuchar, who both sit on the committee.”