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John Gardner pleads Guilty – Discussion Sparks on Chelsea’s Law

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Image by GIS and Social, Mobile Tech Images via Flickr

Image by GIS and Social, Mobile Tech Images via Flickr

John Albert Gardner III pleaded guilty on April 16th in the murders of San Diego teens Amber DuBois and Chelsea King. While his sentence will put him behind bars for life, the battle for Chelsea’s family has just begun. Chelsea’s Law, unveiled last Monday at the state capitol, proposes stronger penalties and stricter monitoring for sex offenders.

Kelly and Brent King, parents of Chelsea King, went to Sacramento accompanied by Nathan Fletcher, R- San Diego. Together they unveiled Chelsea’s Law, along with the support of many San Diegans who journeyed to join them, including the mother of Amber DuBois, Carrie McGonigle. Supporters showed their solidarity last Tuesday, carrying more than 1,000 sunflowers to the steps of the state capitol in support of Chelsea’s Law, an event that had been organized via Facebook called the “Sacramento Sunflower Ovation.”

The bill calls for mandatory life sentence for violent attacks, as well as life-long GPS tracking of all sex offenders who commit crimes against children under 14 years old. The measure would double the current penalty and parole for sex crimes to sixteen and ten years, respectively. In addition, Chelsea’s law would mandate stricter guidelines for sentencing violent sex offenders, filling gaps that are in the current existing law.

While Chelsea’s Law, if passed, will hopefully deter repeat offenders, there are also some who believe that passing another law is not a solution. Problems with overcrowding and funding of prisons will cut into its efficacy, never mind the enforcement of current laws.

“Unless you have committed resources, it doesn’t matter what laws are going to pass, its not going to happen,” said SDSU criminologist Sheldon Zhang.

Gardner was a registered sex offender in Lake Elsinore, and had been sentenced to 6 years in prison for assaulting a 13 year old near his mother’s home in Rancho Bernardo. He served 5 of the 6 years, despite the recommendation of a psychiatrist to sentence him the maximum 30 years in prison. Since his recent arrest, it has been found that Gardner committed seven parole violations in the three years he was on parole after his 2000 attack, none of which were serious enough to send him back to prison.

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