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State senator intends to create bill to crack down on child assaults

State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy said Thursday that the state needs tougher laws on assaults on children.

Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said he intends to introduce a bill in the next Legislature session to increase penalties for adults beating children under the age of 10, especially if they're repeat offenders.

Kennedy's spokesman, John Mackowiak Jr., said his boss was inspired to create the bill by reading in The Buffalo News on Wednesday about the case of Jeremy J. Bolvin, the North Tonawanda father of three who had been convicted of injuring two of his baby sons.

In 2006, Bolvin broke his 6-month-old son's arm. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and was given a conditional discharge by North Tonawanda City Judge William R. Lewis. The maximum penalty would have been a year in jail.

In May, Bolvin pleaded guilty to two counts, a misdemeanor and a Class E felony, for inflicting 11 fractures on another son in March and April 2010, when the boy, Jeremy "J.J." Bolvin, was 1 and 2 months old.

Now 18 months old, the child has been diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, the most severe form of epilepsy, blamed on the child abuse he suffered.

Tuesday, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza sent Bolvin to prison for 1 1/3 to four years, the longest sentence she could have imposed for the charges to which Bolvin pleaded guilty in a pre-indictment plea bargain.

"A gap in state law has led to an absolutely repulsive situation. A man has been handed a light sentence after committing unthinkably brutal acts of violence against his own children," Kennedy said.

"The judge handed down the harshest sentence she could, but it's simply not enough. This violent offender should be locked up behind bars for far longer than he will be. We need to fix state law to protect victims of child abuse and ensure justice is served."

His bill would alter the law on aggravated assault to make it apply to adults who attack children twice within 10 years. The current law applies only if there are two assaults within three years of each other.

Aggravated assault against a child under age 11 would be a Class D felony with a maximum seven-year prison sentence, if Kennedy has his way. A third offense would be a Class B felony with a maximum 25-year sentence.

Mackowiak said the bill will be introduced if there is a special session of the Legislature this fall; otherwise, it will have to wait until the regular session starts in January.

Even though Kennedy is a member of the Senate's Democratic minority, Mackowiak said he doesn't think the bill will be blocked by Albany's usual partisanship.

"When you tell people the story of Jeremy Bolvin's son J.J., and they see the reality of what happened to him, the bottom line is, they'll see the necessity of getting something done, whether there's a D or an R next to your name," Mackowiak said.