State Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Serphin Maltese (R-Glendale) joined with the district attorneys from Brooklyn and Staten Island last Thursday to ask fellow legislators to support new legislation to toughen penalties against parents convicted of child abuse.The new law would apply to parents or guardians who kill a child younger than 18. "Let me just say this, I'm not a lawyer. I'm a grandmother and a mother," Mayersohn said during a news conference in downtown Brooklyn last week. "These crimes are an abomination against everything that our society is supposed to represent. These children are dead and buried and will never again be able to walk the streets. The people who kill them should suffer the same fate."Nixzmary Brown, 7, was allegedly tortured and killed by her stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, while the child's mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, did nothing to stop the abuse, authorities say. The family lived in Brooklyn.Both parents are charged with second-degree murder and face up to 25 years in prison if they are convicted.It is not the first time Mayersohn has called for stiffer punishments against parents who kill their children.The assemblywoman said she has tried to get the legislation passed for about seven years, but it never got off the ground."It just died in the process. Nobody was really interested in it and it just went away," she said, "but I kept reintroducing it year after year because this kind of legislation has to happen. It's common sense. It's what we should be doing to protect these children." Brooklyn District Attorney Joe Hynes agreed that punishments against child abusers should be levied with a heavier hand, but he also contended more should be done to ensure it never gets to that point."I think that if someone realized they faced life without parole we might be facing a different issue, but much more has to be done," he said, noting that the city Department of Education recently agreed to open communication lines with the DA and will begin sending him notices of truant children, at which point he will send letters of concern to the parents."The letter will ask them to come in and talk about the truant behavior and to offer assistance," he said. "We have social workers on staff. We will follow up if there's a repeat of the truancy, and as a last resort, prosecute on the statute that makes it a crime of endangering the welfare of a child."There has to be much more than changing the penalty, but by God, changing the penalty is so much needed today. The time is definitely today."The legislation is currently being circulated through both state houses in Albany for sponsors, and officials said it should be introduced within the week. "Unfortunately, it's too late for Nixzmary Brown, but we hope to pass the legislation in time for it to act as a deterrent, and to act as a punishment for anyone who commits such a heinous crime," Mayersohn said.In response to widespread criticisms of the Administration for Children's Services for its handling of the Nixzmary case, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) also announced last Thursday an investigation of the city agency would take place in February. Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@times
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