Members of Congress introduce legislation to reduce intimidation and violence against those who witness criminal activity and testify in court
ELLICOTT CITY – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Kweisi Mfume were joined by Howard County State’s Attorney Richard Gibson, Jr., to discuss the importance of better protecting witnesses in criminal cases from intimidation and violence.
Senator Cardin and Congressman Mfume recently have introduced legislation, the Witness Security and Protection Grant Program Act, which would establish and strengthen witness protection programs through competitive grants to local and state jurisdictions. The legislation (S. 2958/H. 5528) authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to distribute $150 million in grants over five years for programs nationwide that would protect witnesses in violent felony cases, including homicides, serious drug offenses, and gang-related crimes.
“Witness intimidation happens. It’s so difficult to get witnesses to come forward. We hope that this legislation will give tools for local governments such as Howard County and throughout the country to protect those that had the courage to come forward, so we can get these violent criminals off the street,” Senator Cardin said.
“For too long, the stop-snitching culture and the act of witness intimidation has dominated cities across the nation and has dominated communities over and over again, depriving law enforcement of the tools we need to get criminals off our streets. We anticipate a new day in Maryland and a new day in our nation when it comes to helping local prosecutors to get witnesses to court safely to testify in criminal cases,” Congressman Mfume said.
“As a career prosecutor, I can tell you public safety requires public involvement. It is not a spectator sport. In order to ensure a safe society, we need people in the community to speak up when they observe criminal activity. When people do the right thing and act as our brother’s keeper, we need to be able to do our part to ensure their safety. Financial barriers should not be an impediment to a prosecutor’s ability to preserve the safety of those who help us to maintain a safe, law-abiding community,” said Howard County State’s Attorney Rich Gibson.
The three leaders were joined by front line worker in the prosecution of criminal cases, 17-year-veteran victims’ advocate, Rebecca Marcolini, Director of Victim and Witness Services, Felony Division of the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office who said: “Passing this bill into law could help fund the crucial temporary housing they need, transportation to move them out of danger’s way, taxis to and from court, and more.”
“Passing this bill into law will also help solidify protocol and best practices in witness protection across the county. It’s time to provide the proper support needed to keep community members safe when they take the step forward to speak up, to protect us all,” she added.
State’s Attorney Rich Gibson is the sitting president of the Maryland State’s Attorneys Association.
The Witness Security bill has received endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Center for Victims of Crime, the National Children’s Alliance, the National District Attorneys Association, and the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.