Brent King On Impact Of Chelsea's Law Five Years After His Daughter's Death
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September 14, 2015 1:10 p.m.
Brent King On The Impact Of Chelsea's Law Five Years After His Daughter's Death
Brent King, founder and co-president, Chelsea's Light Foundation
Nathan Fletcher, former California State assemblyman
It was a crime that San Diego will never forget. The sexual assault and murder of Chelsea King five years ago. The man convicted of the crime was also convicted of the rape and murder of teenager Amber Dubois of Escondido. Shortly after the crime the King family and then state assemblyman Nathan Fletcher lobbied successfully for Chelsea's Law. It was aimed at strengthening sentencing laws for sex offenses and providing more oversight for offenders on parole. Recently I spoke with Chelsea is father, Brent King and Nathan Fletcher. There's that interview.
You recently wrote an op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune to market fifth anniversary of Chelsea's Law. Is that lot as successful as you hoped it would be?
Yes. In California it's exactly what we hoped for.
How many people a been convicted under Chelsea's Law and California?
Since we've been tracking it, which again was September 2010, we have had 693 people convicted underneath one of the aspects of our law.
Of those 693 they are all serving longer sentences and again the lobby design was not a lot of sweep everybody and. We really wanted to focus it. Inside of that 693 20 of those are serving life without parole. Those are what we define as the worst of the worst.
After the tragedy, what specific gap in the existing laws made you want to push for a new, for this new Chelsea's Law .
As a dad, I could not believe, I could not believe that someone that had done this type of a crime though the victim did not die, that attacked a young child aged 14 and really hurt her. He was able to live free. The scary part is when I sat down with the investigators while they were searching for my daughter and they showed me pictures of 54 people that lived within 15 miles of my house. They were considered high risk. They had been released after attacking a child. 54. I did not know that as a dad the system is broken and there's something wrong here. I felt that they should never happen to another family.
They can Fletcher remind us how Chelsea's Law changed the sentencing laws for California sex offenders.
What this slide did was just so much. So often today either nothing gets done when there's a problem or if something does get done it's been stripped of any meaning in substance in an effort to just placate others out there. We started early. Rents was a tremendous influence not just for this lot. We're going to go out and do something big. So we started with that cornerstone of the true one strike life without the possibility of parole for the most heinous offenders. Next we listen to law enforcement experts and took 47 different charges were the charge for a forcible crime and non-forcible crime was the same and we increase those. The call the triads. Three different levels. We dug deeper into the parole system and probation system. We realize that for certain offenders that were going to get out we wanted to monitor them for the rest of their life. We also made significant reforms to the treatment to make sure that for those sex offenders to get out the best available treatment is being provided so they are less likely to reoffend. There's a dynamic risk assessment law so when someone gets out law enforcement can adjust their level to give more or less resources. Better protection and screening for those going in the parks and most importantly we paid for it. We lowered offenses for first-time drug offenders that were just proportionately high. They're not felons and did not need to go to to the state. Now you see a lot of talk about lowering sentences but now the core point was this lot is focused on people we are afraid of not mad at. We targeted the worst of the worst and did it in a thorough and comprehensive way. We continue to crack -- track it supplement Kate -- implementation.
From what both of you say it occurs to me that it was quite interesting and how the two of you were able to put this lot together. Can you tell us a little bit about how you work together?
I will start. I realized that there was a gigantic gap in the law. I reached out at that moment in time to my assemblyman. I had never met Nathan. I figured I'm going to need him I'm going to see what he's about and see if he's willing to fight this fight with me. I spent probably 3 1/2 to 4 hours with him learning all about him and realized he was the exact person I was looking for. Not only did he bring a tremendous and that -- amount of knowledge he brought his heart. I couldn't ask for better champion when I chose them to represent us.
Of funny story, we were talking about is when I met with them, it was an incredibly emotional a difficult time. There is a tremendous sadness and agony but there was resolve that we're going to do something good and it was an emotional first encounter. I also told him I will help you, I will work full-time but I was the youngest member of the legislature. I was in my first term in the minority party and I said these measures never get through. But here's the political strategy that will give you the best chance and this is who should be the face of it and who should lead it. And print rejected that idea. He said no. We are doing it together. We've been an amazing team.
In addition to helping craft this law, your family also established Chelsea is light foundation. What type of work is a foundation do?
I love that question. First and foremost we focus on hope. We saw in those eight days where my daughter was missing and discovered we saw the worst evil and we saw the most beauty. We've chosen to focus on the beauty side of it. We host a race every year in San Diego with all the proceeds going towards scholarships for kids in San Diego to go to college. We've awarded out over $300,000 in scholarships to amazing kids that are not just game changers their life changers. We work with the school systems and about the program called the change maker relief which teaches young kids the value of giving back. We also work in other states to pass laws very similar to Chelsea's Law.
Print, how is your family doing after your daughters murder?
There's not a minute or day that goes by that we do not miss our daughter. And our sister. We are healing but healing is never complete. We're learning to live with that and we're learning to be able to focus on the incredible people in our lives that move mountains. We are making it through.
Your family does not live in San Diego anymore. You chose to make a new starting another's to the. Back in 2010, as much as possible I think San Diego, our whole community grieved with you. We watch the trial unfold, the sentence of life without parole for the murder, is your family satisfied that justice was done in this case?
I will speak for me I will not speak for my family. Justice is not carried out here. Justice comes at the end. So that's one justice is really carried out in my mind.
Will thank you for that. And Nathan, you've had a varied career in and out of politics during the last five years. How do you think working on Chelsea's Law, you are ready give us a little bit of a days but how do you think that influence your view of the political system?
It's easy to get cynical. It's natural. There are two approaches and I think this is bigger than politics. This is in life. You can kind of cut your way through the model and do what safe and easy and what people expect and if you don't try too much you don't feel too much and that's one approach. I think life is way too short to live a life that is not one we're striving to have meaning and purpose and doing good things. Working on this, when we set out everyone said you have zero chance. You can't do it it will never happen but we managed to do it. We had six best. That willingness to fail and saying that we would strive to do something bold and meaningful and I would rather come up short in failed in be timid and the. That certainly carried through. It must be horrible you lost the mayors race but probably not as horrible as for someone who did not have the courage to run. I'm going to live my life worry about trying to do things that matter and were trying to make the world a better place. We try to do that through the veterans foundation and I think a lot of that spirit of just go for it and just really saying what can we do to make a lasting difference in impact, derives from having seen it work with Chelsea's Law Because I knew the two of you were coming on, I did some reading about what other people event saying about Chelsea's Law . It's been observed that it's used in a relatively small percentage of the sex crime cases in California. Up also read the both of you say that's the way it should be.
That's how it's designed. We had this politic -- problem in politics were people just do something because it sounds good. So all sex offenders are not the same. As someone who violently sexually assaulted a child is different than the 18-year-old with the 17-year-old girlfriend. Is different than the person that gets drunk and urinates in a park. This is not the same. We always said justice is blind but it's not down. We wanted to have policies that made sense and so we said we're going to focus on the worst of the worst. The people that we are truly afraid of. So that's a testament to what we said when we started.
I have 100% with -- agree with what Nathan just said. There's a difference between the offender that targets young children in a violent way as opposed the ones that haven't yet crossed that line. The ones that of cross that line, their crimes when you study this come worse and worse and worse every single time. Why do we allow that person back out that's what we focus on.
And as you reference, there's a trend in California and nationally to pull back on some of the harsh sentencing laws that were enacted in the last decade. How do you see Chelsea's Law fitting into this new landscape ?
We did that. A lot of those attempts to say we need lower penalties are almost primarily in the area of drugs. We took petty cash petty theft with the wobbler -- or as amounts demeanor and if you were a poor person of color you would get charged with a felony. When I talked to experts in Folkestone drug treatment they said they're not felons. But if you send them to state prison they will become a felon because they will be ingrained in the system. They need to be in County treatment. We took that penalty and lowered it to a misdemeanor. We lowered assistance -- offenses that were disproportionate and we use those savings to pay for the increased penalties on people we're afraid of. And so now we tell people that so there's. We did that five years ago. I'm glad drug got up.
There's such a difference between somebody that's petty theft versus someone who wait somebody. IPAQ cars stolen, I've had my house broken into. That does not measure to what happened to my daughter. And the crime needs to fit. The sentence leads to fit the crime. If I'm going to incarcerate somebody, one person, it's going to be the person that murdered or the person that rate and that's how we chose to forge our law.
I know you're working with Congress to support the child abuse awareness and prevention act. What with that act do?
So much of this, I think Britain I would like to have Chelsea's Law national . The reality of jurisdictions in the reality of how the system works requires the primary work be done state by state by state. This is an act that will continue to raise awareness and drive that conversation. A lot of people do not realize that one in four girls and one in six boys will be victims of childhood sex abuse in their lifetime. A lot of the offenders are people who were offended as children. You get stuck in a horrible cycle. And so we're calling on Congress to pass a similar to continue to drive that awareness and fund programs that work to help drive an agenda. The hard work is going to be done state a state-by-state.
Our ultimate goal is not to pass legislation to put people in jail. Our goal is to change culture. If there's ever anything we should have zero tolerance on, it's on having our children attacked. And so our ultimate goal is to change the culture and have a culture that actually has the mindset of we project -- protect our children and love our children.
How would you like people to honor the memory of your daughter?
Have their kids. The involved when it matters about their child. I think our discussion that we should have is is is good for my child? Is this good for my kids generation? That should be the filter that we look at everything through and if we make our decisions based on that we've made a good this vision.
I a thank you both. Drinking Nathan Fletcher. Thank you.
Thank you so much.
What Chelsea slot is prosecuted statewide the rate of convictions is only available for San Diego, orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento counties. Still ahead tracking the pack about -- Africanized honeybees to San Diego and beyond. That's next on KPBS midday edition.