Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jay J.'s law would crack down on repeat child abusers (Buffalo, New York)

We see this a lot at Dastardly Dads. Fathers like JEREMY J. BOLVIN, who abuse one child, get a slap on the wrist, then go on to abuse yet another child. Notice, however, that this effort to tighten up penalties is NOT a done deal politically. Hmm. Wonder just who it is who's opposed?

No mention here as to this baby's mom, or why she no longer has custody. Probably one of those "failure to protect" issues--something that is virtually never levelled at the fathers of children abused by mothers.


Jay J. 's law would crack down on repeat child abuser
Leniency for father of traumatized tot stirs legislative ire


Published:April 16, 2012, 10:13 PM
Updated: April 17, 2012, 1:20 PM

Jay J. Bolvin is 2 years old now, still serving what family, friends and supporters call a life sentence after he was beaten badly as an infant by his father.

The father was given a much shorter sentence, 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison.

That disparity has created an uproar that already has spread across the state to Albany, home of the State Legislature.
Jay J. still doesn't speak, because of the developmental delays he suffered, but others are using their voices to lobby for a tough new state law in his name, providing stricter penalties for repeat child abusers.

Like his father, Jeremy J. Bolvin, who was previously convicted of beating another son.

The main provision of this proposed law would turn an offender's second case of child abuse into a more serious crime punishable by up to seven years in prison, rather than the four now on the books.
State lawmakers would call it Jay J.'s Law.

New York and other states already have a number of laws enacted with a human touch, named for victims of often-deadly violence or neglect: Megan's Law, Kendra's Law, Leandra's Law.

This, though, would be a law named for someone still living, little Jay J. Bolvin, who's expected to wear the scars of his beatings throughout his lifetime.

Doctors have told his family that Jay J. suffered 11 separate fractures in his body from the beatings at his father's hand. He has also been diagnosed with a serious seizure disorder, called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

"His bones have all healed, but his cognitive abilities are delayed," said Christine Retzer of Sloan, his great-aunt. She and other family members noted that although Jay J. is 2 now, developmentally he's somewhere around 12 months.

"He's now just starting to make sounds on command, very simple commands," said Joseph Retzer, Jay J.'s grandfather, who has custody of the boy, along with his wife, Tabitha.

One of the Retzers, for example, will ask: What sound does a snake make? Or, what does a tiger say?
Jay J. has been largely seizure-free for a couple of months, and he now smiles, giggles and interacts with others, family members say.

But they've also been told that Jay J. always will be developmentally delayed, because of the beatings he endured.

"I'm proud to sponsor a bill that has Jay J.'s name affixed to it," State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy said. "Telling the story of Jay J. has helped to galvanize support for this bill. He was beaten, senselessly, by his own father."

Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, says he's optimistic, but still a little bit cautious, about the bill's chances for passage. The lead sponsor in the Assembly is Cheektowaga Democrat Dennis H. Gabryszak.

"All legislators, regardless of party affiliation, want our children protected and want to see justice," Kennedy said.

The proposed law has four basic provisions:
  • Stiffening the penalty for aggravated assault against a child, so that abusers with previous convictions (such as Jay J.'s father) could receive up to seven years in prison, compared with four years now.
  • Expanding the window for previous convictions to the prior 10 years, as opposed to three now.
  • Making the penalties even stiffer, up to 25 years in prison, for third-time offenders.
  • Allowing some severe cases to be prosecuted as first-degree assaults, which also could yield prison terms of up to 25 years.
"Under Jay J.'s Law, this violent offender could have been hit with a first-degree assault charge, a [Class] B felony, which could have put him behind bars for up to 25 years," said John Mackowiak Jr., Kennedy's communications director.

And even if first-degree assault couldn't be charged, an offender's repeated assault against a child younger than 11 would become a Class D felony, which could keep that offender in jail for up to seven years.

The groundswell for Jay J.'s Law began last Aug. 23, in a Niagara County courtroom, when Jay J.'s 24-year-old father was sentenced for beating him.

Jeremy Bolvin, of North Tonawanda, previously had been convicted of third-degree assault for breaking the arm of another of his sons in 2006, when that child was 6 months old.

But under the law, Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza last August gave Bolvin the strictest sentence available to her, 1 1/3 to 4 years.

"Unfortunately, [Jay J.] has a life sentence," Sperrazza told Bolvin's attorney that day.

The Buffalo News article the next day brought plenty of negative comments toward the judge for giving out such a short prison term to a repeat child abuser. "Everybody got mad at the judge for not punishing him more, but I realized that's all she could give him," said Kevin Retzer, the little boy's great-uncle. "I always learned that if you don't like a law, change it."

So Kevin Retzer, his wife, Christine, and other relatives worked with Kennedy, who was upset after reading the sentencing story in The News.

"A gap in state law has led to an absolutely repulsive situation," the state senator told The News last summer. "A man has been handed a light sentence after committing unthinkably brutal acts of violence against his own children."

What would the new law mean for Jay J.'s family?

"We realize it's not going to benefit Jay J., but I don't want anyone's child victimized, a family across the street or a family across the state," said Kevin Retzer, whose family had custody of the little boy for eight months last year.

"For me, personally, I feel better knowing that downstream another child may not be hurt," he added. "I may not know that child, but intuitively I will know that another child did not get hurt."