Specter: Witness intimidation is a “national problem”

    Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania wants to make witness intimidation a federal crime. In Philadelphia, the problem has become so bad that – according to a Philadelphia Inquirer series – the city has one of the lowest conviction rates in the country.

    By Meggan Kole

    Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania wants to make witness intimidation a federal crime. In Philadelphia, the problem has become so bad that according to a Philadelphia Inquirer series the city has one of the lowest conviction rates in the country.

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    Calling witness intimidation a national problem, Senator Specter has introduced a bill that permit prosecution in federal court and bring tougher sentences for anyone harassing, hurting or killing a witness.

    A single charge of harassment could bring a sentence of 20 years in prison.

    Alison Sprague is with Victim Witness Services of South Philadelphia. She says witness intimidation is being used, as if it were a legal strategy.

    Sprague: Defendants at this point  are pretty savvy. If they can get the victim, witness to not show up for three preliminary hearings, the case is going to be discharged. If  you shown are a presence and if you make threatening phone calls and people are afraid to go to court.

    If the bill were enacted, the federal penalities would only be applied to witness intimidation cases that involve interstate commerce, which could include telephone calls, emails or guns.

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