Posted at: 11/25/2013 7:48 PM
| Updated at: 11/25/2013 8:38 PM
By: Steve Flamisch
CLIFTON PARK – Imagine walking down the street and being sucker-punched by a total stranger.
It’s called the "Knockout Game." The players are generally teenagers; the victims are unsuspecting pedestrians.
"I think it’s horrible," Shylisa Ford, of Albany, told NewsChannel 13. "You shouldn’t knock people out, like out of nowhere."
There are no reports of such assaults in Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, or Troy, according to police spokesmen in those cities.
But in Syracuse and other cities, some victims have died.
"I think it's wrong what they're doing," Tina Stoliker, of Troy, told NewsChannel 13. "That's totally wrong. They should do something about it."
LAWMAKER: "THEY’RE THUGS"
Responding to what he calls "an epidemic," state Assemblyman Jim Tedisco (R – Glenville) is sponsoring a bill that targets people who play the game.
"They're cowards," Tedisco said. "They're thugs. They're punks. And, I think, if you want to be a big man and bang your chest… they need a big man and a big man penalty."
If Tedisco’s bill becomes law, anyone convicted of a knockout assault could face up to 25 years in prison; the current maximum sentence is 15 years, he said.
Juveniles would be charged as adults. Accomplices would be held criminally responsible.
"It’s sociopathic behavior," Tedisco said. "I think we’ve got to err on the side of protecting innocent, honest, law-abiding citizens."
Tedisco’s proposed legislation was still in the drafting stage late Monday.
IS THE BILL NEEDED?
The bill’s fate depends on its reception in the legislature. State Assemblyman John McDonald (D – Cohoes) said many of its provisions may not be necessary.
"There’s a whole different set of charges that are already in statute that can be applied… gang legislation and aggravated assault," McDonald said, adding that murder charges would apply to fatal knockouts.
McDonald said he supports "stiffer penalties" for people convicted of committing a knockout assault, but he said Tedisco’s proposal likely goes too far.
"The question is: what is going to be reasonably acceptable to the legislature?" McDonald asked. "Twenty-five years? I highly doubt that’s going to be acceptable."
After the May beating death of Michael Daniels, 51, of Syracuse, a 16-year-old pleaded guilty to manslaughter, and a 13-year-old pleaded guilty to assault.
Both were sentenced to 18 months in jail.
WHERE THEY STAND
Here is where other local state lawmakers stand:
Sen. Neil Breslin (D – Bethlehem): Unclear. Did not return a message left at his office.
Sen. Hugh Farley (R – Niskayuna): Supports the bill. Lead majority sponsor in the Senate.
Sen. Betty Little (R – Queensbury): Undecided. Wants to read the bill before taking a stance. Questions whether existing laws apply.
Sen. Kathy Marchione (R – Halfmoon): Undecided. Wants to read the bill before taking a stance, according to an aide.
Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk (D – Duanesburg): “Absolutely” supports the bill, according to an aide.
Assem. Patricia Fahy (D – Albany): Undecided. Questions whether existing laws apply. Questions proposed 25-year maximum sentence.
Assem. John McDonald (D – Cohoes): Undecided. Supports stiffer penalties but questions proposed 25-year maximum sentence.
Assem. Steve McLaughlin (R – Melrose): Supports the bill. Signed on as co-sponsor.
Assem. Angelo Santabarbara (D – Rotterdam): Open to supporting the bill. Agrees with increasing the penalties.
Assem. Phil Steck (D – Colonie): Unclear. Did not return a message left on his cell phone.
Assem. Jim Tedisco (R – Glenville): Supports the bill. Original sponsor.