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Gov. Chris Christie Signs Sex Offender Bill Into Law

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

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TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey has become the 46th state to enact a law toughening penalties for sex offenders who prey on children.

Gov. Chris Christie signed the law known as the “Jessica Lunsford Act,” which imposes mandatory 25-year terms without parole for anyone convicted of assaulting a child younger than 13.

Prosecutors would be permitted to negotiate a 15-year sentence to keep some victims from having to testify.

“This new law is now one of the most significant public safety statutes on the books in the Garden State and a huge victory for our children who will finally receive the protections they deserve from individuals who commit one of society’s most heinous crimes – sexual assault,” stated Assembly Republican Deputy Conference Leader Mary Pat Angelini, R-Monmouth. “It was a long process that involved much work and effort on both sides of the aisle, but the end product sends a resounding message to pedophiles that their punishment will now fit their crime.”

The bill is named after a 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, raped and buried alive in 2005 by twice-convicted sex offender John Evander Couey, who died of natural causes while awaiting execution.

Similar laws around the country are intended to keep child sex offenders locked up longer to reduce their ability to re-offend.

The girl’s father, Mark Lunsford, has pushed hard for such laws. He flew to Trenton to attend Monday’s bill signing.

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