Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Amber Alert bill is Trojan horse?

"National elation over reuniting Elizabeth Smart with her family mutated into nasty partisan politics in the nation's capital Thursday, as congressional leaders and Ed Smart exchanged fire over progress of anti-abduction legislation. Smart incited a congressional backlash when, in a national television interview with missing child activist and "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh, he stepped up his verbal lashing ..."

"The political strategy at play with the Amber Alert bill is as old as the Trojan horse. Legislation that enjoys broad bipartisan support is stuffed with other less-popular measures in the hopes the core intent of the bill will carry the additional provisions through the gates of the legislative process. Sensenbrenner's bill tacks onto the original measure expansion of the death penalty and wiretapping authority, elimination of the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases, criminalization of traveling with criminal intent, and other changes."

"Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, pushed the Amber-only bill through the Senate in just two days earlier this year, and he and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, joined Senate sponsors Thursday in calling for immediate House passage."


"Right before the House passed its first version of the bill, Republicans inserted language that would make it harder for federal judges to stray from official sentencing guidelines for criminals ... Democrats say a hastily written amendment offered by Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would affect almost all federal crimes, taking away judges' discretion on sentencing criminals ... Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said that provision could hurt the federal court system."

"The Judicial Conference believes that this legislation, if enacted, would do serious harm to the basic structure of the sentencing guideline system and would seriously impair the ability of courts to impose just and responsible sentences," he [Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquis] said ... That language -- which has been strongly opposed by Democrats -- shouldn't have been considered by the negotiating committee or included in the final compromise because it has nothing to do with either the Amber Alert system or child pornography, Democrats said."


"The House passed the bill 400-25 hours before the Senate approved in on a 98-0 vote. The legislation now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it ..."

"Sensenbrenner and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, shepherded the stronger criminal penalties through the House by attaching them to the popular Amber Alert kidnapping-notification legislation. That measure was sought by the family of Elizabeth Smart, who was recovered in March after being taken from her bedroom in Salt Lake City last year."

"Some Democrats, who support a stand-alone Amber Alert bill passed by the Senate, argued that provisions in the bill reducing federal judges' discretion in sentencing criminals should have been debated longer. The Senate never debated the legislation before passing it as part of the House-Senate compromise."

"Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota accused Republicans of 'kidnapping the Amber Alert bill in an attempt to achieve partisan and wholly unrelated goals gutting judicial sentencing guidelines.'"

'"But we question and wonder why it should carry with it such extraneous kinds of material which this legislation carries,' he [Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass] said."

"Two Democratic senators, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, missed the final vote."

"Federal judges, including Supreme Court Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, have expressed concern about Congress changing judicial discretion in federal sentencing. Despite their complaints about the additional provisions, House and Senate Democrats voted for the Amber Alert bill anyway."

"Lawmakers rushed to get the Amber Alert legislation through after Elizabeth Smart was returned to her parents in March. "The family is grateful for passage in the House and they are very, very anxious to see the legislation pass in the Senate so it can be enacted into law," Smart family spokesman Chris Thomas said before the Senate vote."


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -The Salt Lake Tribune said today that it fired two reporters who were paid $20,000 for collaborating with the National Enquirer on an Elizabeth Smart story because they misled their employer about the level of their involvement with the tabloid ...
Vigh and Cantera split $20,000 for their help on a July 2 Enquirer story headlined ``Utah Cops: Secret Diary Exposes Family Sex Ring.'' The story has been retracted as part of a settlement between the Smart family and the tabloid. Vigh and Cantera, the lead reporters on the Smart kidnapping case, didn't tell Shelledy of their dealings with the Enquirer until last week"

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