Just one day after Lee County man Richard McDade was acquitted on charges of a decade of child sexual abuse, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that would have allowed into evidence reportedly damning secret recordings taken by his accuser as a teenager.
HB 7001, sponsored by the House Criminal Justice panel and Reps. Carlos Trujillo, Jared Moskowitz and Ben Albritton, was promoted heavily by abuse victims’ advocacy group Lauren’s Kids — founded and chaired by Lauren Book — who praised the governor’s final approval of the bill Friday morning in a release.
“But today, Florida and our Governor Rick Scott took a strong and visionary step toward making sure children’s voices are heard when they come forward to disclose sexual abuse with the signing of HB 7001 into law. Child victims of sexual abuse will be now able to use technology such as cell phones to record incriminating statements from their abusers and capture proof that these acts occurred,” said Book.
Book, herself a survivor of abuse and the daughter of lobbyist Ron Book, went on to say that the recordings which led a jury to convict McDade before that ruling was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court — who, in their opinion undoing McDade’s conviction, suggested the Legislature pass a bill like HB 7001 — were all the difference both times he faced a jury.
“The new law signed today is the result of the tireless dedication of Representatives Moskowitz and Trujillo and Senators [Lizbeth] Benacquisto and [Wilton] Simpson, who swiftly led the effort to move this legislation forward for Governor Scott’s signature, with outstanding support from Attorney General Pam Bondi. Florida legislators drafted and filed this bill following the aforementioned Supreme Court decision in the McDade v. State case, in which a cell phone recording of abuse was ruled inadmissible in court because it was taken without the consent of the abuser.
“This new law signifies real hope for children whose voices have been silenced. I thank Governor Scott and the members of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives for helping child sexual abuse victims bring their abusers to justice and for giving children a voice.”
Benacquisto also issued a statement to mark the occasion of the bill’s enshrinement.
“It is a travesty of justice that Richard McDade was able to manipulate loopholes in the law to once again walk the streets. I pray for the victim and her family at this difficult time,” the Ft. Myers Republican said on Friday.
“My hope is that by passing SB 541/HB 7001 we will give victims the voice in our courts that this young girl was stripped of yesterday. As long as I am in office I will seek to make Florida a tougher place for the Richard McDades of the world. I thank Governor Scott for signing this important bill into law.”
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