Panel OKs Victim Compensation Bill; Gingrich Angers Mayors
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Criminals would have to compensate their victims, and evidence taken unlawfully by police would be considered in more instances under new measures approved by the House Judiciary Committee.
As Republican lawmakers began their push to revamp the $30 billion anti-crime law enacted last year, the committee voted Friday to send the proposals to the full House.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, angered mayors by saying Congress would cut back President Clinton’s anti-crime package, which mayors had lobbied hard to pass. Clinton, addressing the mayors’ winter meeting in Washington, urged them to fight any attempt to repeal the assault-style weapons ban or any other part of the crime legislation.
``It is very important that we not fix what ain’t broke and that we not become diverted by issues that can only divide us when there is so much we can do that will bring us together,″ the president said.
The mayors, mostly big-city Democrats, accused Republican leaders of engaging in double-talk and said Gingrich is trying to cram a GOP agenda down their throats. The U.S. Conference of Mayors closed the meeting without endorsing Republican changes to the plan.
In its legislative meeting, the House Judiciary Committee also adopted an amendment to a criminal alien deportation bill that would require the federal government to pay the cost of such deportations. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., gained the support of seven Republicans on the panel.
With a sole dissenting vote, the 35 Judiciary Committee members voted to send the compensation bill to the full House. It would require criminals to pay full restitution to their victims for all damages resulting from the crime.
The measure ``will help ensure that justice is done for both the victims and the offenders,″ said its sponsor, Rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., chairman of the panel’s crime subcommittee.
The compensation would include expenses incurred by the victim during a trial, such as lost income, child care and transportation.
Only Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., opposed the measure. Watt said he feared that because of the provision for lost income, ``rich people will tend to be restituted ... more handsomely than poor people.″
The committee also voted, along party lines, to approve a Republican measure to expand the ``good faith″ exception to a longstanding rule requiring unlawfully seized evidence to be excluded from criminal cases. The rule is designed to deter police misconduct and protect people from unreasonable search and seizure, as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
The ``good faith″ exception allows unlawfully seized evidence to be considered if police officers made mistakes in good faith. The new proposal would expand that to situations in which police gathered evidence without a search warrant but had an ``objectively reasonable belief″ that they were acting properly.
Democrats objected that the proposal, which also goes to the full House, would erode Fourth Amendment protections.
Rep. Jack Reed, D-R.I., warned it would send a message to police of ``don’t bother to call the central office for a warrant.″
Freshman Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif., berated his Democratic colleagues.
``The public is crying for (police) to do the job, and when they do the job they get hamstrung. ... But you go on and on and on with these relentless games,″ said Bono. ``You know words but you really don’t know what’s out in the street.″
Retorted Rep. Robert Scott, D-Va.: ``What we’re actually discussing are fundamental constitutional rights.″