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Schumer: Make witness intimidation federal crime

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. listens during a news

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jan. 28, 2013) Credit: AP

Sen. Charles Schumer called Tuesday for stronger laws against those who intimidate witnesses in criminal cases, and those who attempt to do so.

"Some gang members make a profession of making sure that people don't come forth and help the police solve crime, making them have fear for their safety," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference at Freeport Village Hall.

Schumer said the State Witness Protection Act, now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, would help law enforcement officials protect key witnesses who provide information about crimes, help identify suspects or testify during trials. The measure would set federal criminal penalties at up to 20 years for any acts of intimidation, and up to 30 for killing a witness, said Schumer, a co-sponsor.

"This will be federal legislation and tougher than the state," said Schumer, who started his presentation displaying a brown T-shirt, with a picture of brass knuckles at the top, with the message "Snitches get Stitches."

Flanked by local officials, Schumer said "innocent bystanders who witness violent crimes should no longer live in fear when our law enforcement enlists their help to get criminals off the streets and behind bars."

Schumer noted that Freeport is among areas on Long Island where gang intimidation has been an issue. Village officials nodded their heads in agreement.

"Gang violence is a scourge in our communities, and law enforcement must have access to every available tool to defeat it," said Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy.

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