PITTSBURGH (KDKA)– U.S. Senator Pat Toomey is pushing for the passage of his bill that would more severely punish people who use the internet to stalk children.
The Republican hosted a press conference on Friday at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“We need monsters like this to suffer very serious consequences,” said Senator Toomey.
WATCH: Sen. Toomey News Conference —
If passed, Toomey said his bipartisan bill will do two things. It will increase the maximum prison sentence a defendant can receive for violating federal criminal stalking laws by five years if the victim is a child.
“It directs the Department of Justice to submit a one time report to Congress on best practices for enforcing anti-stalking laws at federal, state and local level,” said Toomey.
Toomey teamed up with Senator Bob Casey on the legislation. He said the bill is inspired by the Zezzo family of Bucks County. Toomey said Madison Zezzo was cyberstalked by the father of a friend of hers when she was only 13.
“It was done through social media and it was on a massive scale,” said Toomey.
The 51-year-old suspect pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor stalking charge and was sentenced to probation and counseling. Within a few years, Toomey said he went back to stalking before he was arrested for a second time.
“During the second phase of stalking, the perpetrator posted over 15,000 times about Madison,” said Toomey.
Dr. Rachel Berger with UPMC Children’s Hospital Child Advocacy Center says she can’t remember the last case she had where social media did not play a role.
“This will really help our ability at the child advocacy center as we work very closely with state, local and federal law enforcement and provide comprehensive evaluations of children who are all types of abuse including cyber stalking,” said Dr. Berger.
“I think our public safety needs to take into account the kind of damage social media abuse this way can do,” said Toomey.
Senator Toomey said he’s hopeful his bipartisan bill will pass in the Senate. He’s confident he can get it done this year.