The Connecticut General Assembly’s public safety and security committee held a public hearing today on a bill that would increase penalties for those convicted of assault through participation in the so-called knockout game.
West Hartford police officer Tom Nagle was among those to testify in favor of stronger legislation. In January, his son, whose identity he asked us not to reveal, was a victim of this type of assault on his college campus.
“He has a broken jaw. It was wired shut. He’s lost 15 pounds. He’s having meals through a straw,” said Nagle.
The 17 year West Hartford cop says his son is very fortunate.
“One of the young men who was assaulted prior to my son was actually knocked out. My son was knocked down to all fours. He was able to get up and then run to help,” he said.
In early February, Endicott College sophomore, Dillon DeStefano, who students say bragged about the attacks on the two students, pleaded not guilty to two counts of aggravated assault and battery. He remains incarcerated without bail
“My son has two titanium plates in his lower jaw. He has 8 screws. His jaw was broken in multiple places,” Nagle further explains.
The victims are often chosen randomly and without warning. The perpetrators often deliver one blow to the head in an attempt to knock out their target.
The bill, sponsored by state representative Joe Verrengia, who is also a West Hartford police Sgt., would establish a knockout game assault as a class D felony, which carries a maximum five-year sentence.
“What this bill does is impose a two year sentence that cannot be suspended,” said Verrengia.
Assistant state’s attorney, Timothy Sugrue, testified today saying existing state assault laws already cover the knockout crime. So, there is no need to seek class D felony status with this bill.
“What is necessary is the part of the act that imposes a two year mandatory minimum sentence for committing a knockout crime,” said Sugrue.
If the bill passes, as constituted, anybody, at least 16 years of age, would go to jail for a minimum of two years if convicted. And that’s not sitting well with the Chief Office of the Public Defender. The reason? 16 and 17-year-olds would be tried as adults.
“By making this a mandatory transfer offense, it really goes against what we know about young people and adolescent brain development and even the policy that, most of the time, kids are rehabilitated better in juvenile court,” Chris Rapillo of the Office of the Chief Public Defender.
Some question if a knockout game even exists. The New York Times reported in December police in several cities, where these attacks have been reported, say they might be nothing more than the sort of random assaults that have always occurred.