Connecticut Lawmakers Push 'Knockout Game' Bill, Citing Various 'Feelings' As Evidence Something Must Be Done

from the can-I-legislate-a-feeling? dept

A few states are still wrapped up in the "knockout game" panic, despite there being very little evidence that it's even a thing, much less something that can't be handled by existing assault laws. But since no panic can be allowed to escape unlegislated, sweaty-browed legislators are pushing bad, broadly-written bills in order to put an end to this scourge, one that lies somewhere between "vodka tampon" and "jenkem" on the scale of believability.

South Carolina's attempt is a complete disaster. It aims to criminalize the act of recording criminal activity, supposedly because no knockout game player ever lets a knockout go unrecorded. The list of unintended consequences that will spring from that addition is longer than most career criminals' rap sheets. Again, aiding, abetting and criminal conspiracy laws are all on the books and could be applied to both the person delivering the blow and to the person recording it. In short, a stupid and mostly redundant bill, words that also aptly describe the Connecticut legislature's attempt to turn the knockout game into its own criminal offense.

Legislation aimed at discouraging the “knockout game” cleared the Judiciary Committee on Monday over opposition from lawmakers who say the unprovoked attacks addressed in the bill are not a problem in Connecticut.

The bill, which passed 31-10, would apply in criminal cases where an attacker strikes someone in the head without provocation and with the intent of knocking them unconscious. The legislation makes that attack a Class D felony with a mandatory two-year sentence. It also requires juvenile courts to transfer 16- and 17-year-olds accused of the crime to the adult criminal justice system.
The bill amends the statute applying to 2nd degree assault to add the following language.
or (6) with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person by rendering such other person unconscious, and without provocation by such other person, he causes such injury to such other person by striking such other person in the head.
As Connecticut public defender Gideon points out in his blog post, this makes anyone who goes for a knockout (or intends to) subject to a harsher penalty than someone handing out a much more brutal beating.
[P]ursuant to this amendment to the Assault in the Second Degree statute, you will now be subjected to a harsher penalty for one knockout punch than you would be if you took a baseball bat and beat the crap out of someone. Doesn't that make a lot of sense?
Of course, it doesn't make sense. But neither does claiming the knockout game is so pervasive it needs its own law. It's apparently headed towards epidemic levels if the state doesn't act, at least according to the wealth of statistics provided by proponents of the bill.
[Rep. Joe] Verrengia said it was difficult to determine how many of the attacks have occurred when he was asked Monday if there was any evidence suggesting that a large number have been committed by 16- or 17-year-old offenders.

"I tried to wrap my arms around it, I tried to get statistics, but it's very difficult to do so by virtue of the present reporting requirements by various law enforcement agencies," he said. ". . . I think if you were to ask [victims] how many assaults have there been throughout the state of Connecticut, they would say, 'One too many.'"
Fully justified. "One too many." No stats, just feelings. Feelings on top of feelings on top of gut instincts on top of "sending a message."
Rep. Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said she understood the concerns of opponents but agreed that the crime should come with a more severe penalty.

"This isn't kids just playing around having fun. Although they think that's what it is because they've decided it's a 'game.' But there are people who have lost — pregnant women who have lost children because of it," she said. "At the very least, if this sends a message to these kids that think this is funny, I think we've done our job."
Oh, I see. It's not a real law. It's a message. Except it's a message with a mandatory 2-year sentence and the opportunity to be tried as an adult. And all over something the main bill pusher can't even "wrap his arms around." SEEMS BAD. DO SOMETHING!

How bad is this legislative "something?" The bill's addition to the assault statute renders itself impotent.
Finally, do you know how badly they've destroyed logic? They've ruined their own bill and made it completely useless. How? Re-read the bill. What is the intent requirement in order to convict someone? That's right. "Intent to cause serious physical injury by rendering such other person unconscious."

Good luck proving that. Ever. I can almost guarantee that this subsection will never, ever be used because there's no damn "knockout game" and because no prosecutor can ever prove that intent.
Add to that the inverted logic of Rep. Verrengia (again), who feels assault victims who have been rendered unconscious (or seemed to have been assaulted with that intent) should have an upgraded victim status.
Verrengia said he was seeking to make the victims of unprovoked attacks a protected class similar to how the law treats victims who are handicapped, pregnant, or blind.

"Although the victims in this case may not be legally blind, they are certainly blindsided by this sort of attack," Verrengia said. ". . . I believe it warrants that sort of penalty."
So many logical leaps made solely with the intent of curbing a criminal activity so (supposedly) dangerously prevalent no one has any stats on it. This bill is the epitome of "doing something." Everyone pushing it forward has plenty of feelings about the subject at hand but not a single one has offered anything in the way of evidence to justify rewriting this law. Laws are not emotional. They may be applied badly and enforced randomly, giving them the appearance of highly emotional entities, but they are most beneficial to society when they aren't conceived, written and argued by lawmakers who have allowed something as irrational as emotions to guide their hand.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Josh (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:31am

    lawmakers

    Many of our law makers seem to think of their job as a joke and I know laugh about it. If you ask people how many scandals there have been, I'm sure you'd get the answer "One to many."

    So, using the same logic, can we make it illegal to be a representative? Doesn't this go along with the same logic that is being applied to a vague bill?

     

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    Jay (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:34am

    Wait, what's a "knockout game"? This is literally the first time I've even heard of it. I mean, it sounds like it's some sort of a thing where you record yourself punching someone trying to knock them out, am I on the money here? Because that's one hell of an epidemic if this is the first I've heard of it.

    "It aims to criminalize the act of recording criminal activity"

    Wait, does that mean that cops wouldn't be allowed to record going after bad guys? Or, for that matter, mean that your punishment is lessened if you don't record yourself doing it?

     

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      SPalmer, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 11:30am

      Hard to believe

      I'm finding this very hard to believe. Whether this exists as an epidemic or not anyone who spends time watching or reading the news has heard of it. Pick your favorite non-tech news site and punch in (pun intended) knockout in the search box and catch yourself up...

       

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      madasahatter (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      The knockout game is supposedly when a group of thugs try to see who can knockout a bystander with a sucker punch to the head. It probably does occur (how often I have no idea) but it is already a crime (assault and battery?, possibly criminal conspiracy, plus probably a couple of other charges). So passing a bill to outlaw something that is already a crime is senseless.

      The other probably is the media will hear about something like the knockout game and then make sound as if it happens on every street corner. I remember the media hyping carjackings many years ago and to this day I have never seen or been involved a carjacking. But the media made sound as if I walked done the street I would see two or three occur in a few blocks.

      Also politicians love to pass retrospective laws that really do not criminalize anything; the activity was already on the books under another crime. Often in the course of their grandstanding they confuse the issue with their own ignorance.

       

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        Lurker Keith, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re:

        The News where I am did that. There were a string of "knockout game" attacks. But, some of the more reputable reporters questioned if it was such a thing.

        My understanding is the name "Knockout Game", & the assumption that this was a game, originated w/ the News.

         

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      RevBacon (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 7:48am

      Re:

      The Knockout Game is a tactic used in the low-level race war being waged by US Blacks against whites. It's not the only tactic, and many violent black-on-white attacks (which outnumber the reverse by 9:1) are not characterized as Knockout Game attacks.

      To read up on this, suggest you google "White Girl Bleed a lot" and/or the name Colin Flaherty. I'm not sure I can post links there.

      It's not surprising that you haven't heard of it, because it's part of a class of crimes called, "Hush Crimes," where the mainstream media have all explicitly agreed to censor certain aspects of this crime (race of perp, race of victim). That's why you've never heard of Mona Nelson, or Channon Christian, or Nathan Trapuzzano, or even Roderick Scott.

       

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    weneedhelp (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:35am

    The game

    The knockout game for guys... a no no... girls... free to let the punches fly:
    "or (6) with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person by rendering such other person unconscious, and without provocation by such other person, he causes such injury to such other person by striking such other person in the head."

     

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    Jernau (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:37am

    My brain hurtz

    I think it would be a major public benefit if anyone running for a public office had to take an IQ test and score at least 100.

     

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      Lurker Keith, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 4:22pm

      Re: My brain hurtz

      A high IQ does not necessarily translate to "smart", having common sense, nor being able to make good law.

      I know people like Sheldon Cooper exist. You would be insane putting someone him in any kind of position to draft laws.

      Just becomes someone is smart doesn't mean they can relate to others, especially those they believe are beneath them, & come up w/ fair Laws.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 1:02am

        Re: Re: My brain hurtz

        A high IQ does not necessarily translate to "smart", having common sense, nor being able to make good law.

        What is often required is politicians with the comman sense to know when NOT to make a law, as existing laws deal with the problem; and a press with sense enough not to criticize them for doing nothing. The problem with that is no headlines, and nothing the politicians can point to as them doing something.

         

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    NoahVail (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:42am

    The time to speak up about broad, redundant legislation was during the passage of Hate Crime legislation.
    You'll just confuse lawmakers by saying redundant HC laws are necessary but redundant KO laws are counterproductive.

    Assaulting another human being is the crime that needs to legislated and we have lots of laws on the books to handle that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:50am

    This bill is the epitome of "doing something."
    So was PATRIOT. We see how well that turned out eh?

     

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      Internet Zen Master (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 2:02pm

      Re:

      At least the PATRIOT Act had actual, verifiable statistics. Sure, they were emotionally loaded as hell and based on a tragic event fresh in the public conscience, but they still had something concrete and provable data to justify their 'doing something', unlike the imbeciles in CT's legislative branch.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 5:41am

        Re: Re:

        "Used as justification" and "being justified" are two different things.


        Agree that "a tragic event fresh in the public conscience" does justify common sense action. The patriot act was not common sense action though.


        The "Knockout Game" requires common sense action too.
        Ignore it and it will fade away. It was rare enough to begin with. Not the sort of thing to go viral either.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:53am

    Would there be the same "Legal panic" from people collapsing from exhaustion, for being overworked ? I doubt it. Even passing a law to limit the working week to 40hours is beyond their capability.


    More proof that American lawmakers are retarded and only go after useless targets with their power to control.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 10:55am

    For those of you considering doing something "brave"...here is a simple table of possible infractions. The list is mostly from the past few days of Techdirt, with some others still making me slightly upset.

    Slightly Unethical/immoral
    ignoring constitution
    stealing money from others, as long as others is almost everyone else in the nation. Thinking about the housing crisis here, or robosigning
    lying to Senate about spy programs
    lying to FTC/FCC about cable company merger plans

    soon to be illegal / trying to become illegal
    punching someone AND recording it
    designing lines or stripes on fabric
    singing a song (karaoke), and posting on youtube
    or - recording yourself with a car radio playing a song and posting that

    Illegal
    Whistle-blowing
    making idle threats / talking smack while playing video games
    drawing a mouse / deriving income from a mouse
    reporting on Senate / DOJ activities
    re-tweeting, if someone (anyone) in NJ received it
    following the letter of the law with regards to your TOS between your company and your clients. Sorry, Lavabit

    I could go on...but why? the list is already too confusing . . .

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 11:03am

    It's real.

    In St Louis it's a real thing. Haven't heard much about it in the last few months but last year it was something of an epidemic here. One man lost his life after being hit (fell to the ground and hit his head on the curb). And yes, it was videoed. Morons.
    The perps were usually 13-15 years old. Traveled in gangs of 4-10. Often with a couple of girls. They would spot a potential victim and work their way closer to him until they felt they were close enough and then one of them would dash up to the person and hit him, usually from behind.
    The object of the 'game' was to see if they could knock somebody unconscious with one blow.
    It started with assaults on homeless men. Pretty soon they were attacking late night workers and theater patrons.
    Most all of the victims were of smaller stature.
    When the police finally started to take notice they were able to use standard investigative techniques to put a stop to it. Seems that there were 30-50 individuals, divided into quite a few cliques in rival schools.
    Once one of them rolled over and started turning over video that was pretty much the end of that.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 11:30am

    So is knocking out a random person on the street not considered assault once a group of delinquents call it a game? Pretty sure there is case law that will allow prosecutors to go after the recorder or any tag-alongs as accomplices to assault or intent anyway. Unless a mass of kids start calling common crime a game somehow prevents prosecutors from going after them, the whole "Knockout Game" legislation seems redundant if anything. And if it's truly about "sending a message" to these kids, it'll fall on deaf ears. So long as there are stupid kids, they will do stupid shit regardless of what law you make.

     

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    kenichi tanaka (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 12:06pm

    It's about time that our lawmakers started doing something about this. I don't how many are aware of this so-called "knockout game", but it's been a rising trend all across the country.

    What happens is that you pick out anyone in a crowd or on the street and just approach that person and punch them in the face, and it's called the "one punch knockout". This trend started in New Jersey and has escalated to other states such as Michigan, Connecticut, New York and so on.

    Thank God that our elected lawmakers are doing something about this dangerous pastime.

     

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      nasch (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 7:30am

      Re:

      It's about time that our lawmakers started doing something about this.

      You're trolling, right?

       

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      Gwiz (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 7:47am

      Re:

      It's about time that our lawmakers started doing something about this.


      Can you explain why a "new" law is needed here when everything is already covered under existing laws such as those covering assault, aggravated assault, battery and so forth?

      The only reason I can come up is to provide politicians the illusion of "doing something" to their constituents.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 12:07pm

    Crap like this already reminds me...

    ...of this small bit of genius:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm1Jyusyoqk

    Right around 2:12.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    I don't see the problem here

    [P]ursuant to this amendment to the Assault in the Second Degree statute, you will now be subjected to a harsher penalty for one knockout punch than you would be if you took a baseball bat and beat the crap out of someone. Doesn't that make a lot of sense?


    But from the current second degree assault statute:

    (1) With intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person;


    That would cover a severe beating with a baseball bat. Heck, if the bat was considered a "dangerous implement" they could bump it to first degree assault which carries a much greater penalty than this. You're always going to find an instance of where conduct A carries a lighter penalty than conduct B even though they appear to be similar. If you beat someone up and cause serious injury with the assistance of 2 other people, that's a greater penalty than if you beat them up and cause serious injury with only 1 other person, even if the injuries are exactly the same (or even if the injuries are more severe with fewer people), for example.

    The conduct prohibited by the proposed change is already, by definition, second degree assault. The proposed law only adds a minimum sentence of 2 years and mandates that those over 16 who are accused of this be tried as an adult. I don't think that's out of line. The conduct in question is more serious than normal second degree assault because it is unprovoked and involves a blow to the head strong enough to produce unconsciousness, which can be very dangerous.

    Does anyone here think that if a 16 year old "with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person by rendering such other person unconscious, and without provocation by such other person, []causes such injury to such other person by striking such other person in the head" that they should NOT be tried as an adult and get at least 2 years?

     

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      nasch (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 7:34am

      Re: I don't see the problem here

      Does anyone here think that if a 16 year old "with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person by rendering such other person unconscious, and without provocation by such other person, []causes such injury to such other person by striking such other person in the head" that they should NOT be tried as an adult and get at least 2 years?

      I do. It makes no sense to try a child as an adult. The idea behind trying minors differently is that they have a reduced capacity to understand the consequences of their actions, or perhaps less understanding of the law, or of right and wrong. I don't understand why we would decide that's not the case for certain crimes.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 10:23am

        Re: Re: I don't see the problem here

        The idea behind trying minors differently is that they have a reduced capacity to understand the consequences of their actions, or perhaps less understanding of the law, or of right and wrong. I don't understand why we would decide that's not the case for certain crimes.


        Because some crimes are just so obviously crimes that those defenses can't reasonably apply. You cannot seriously argue that a 16 year old cannot be expected to know that punching people in the head hard enough to knock them out for no reason is illegal, wrong, and will have severe consequences.

        And this is distinguished from ordinary assault in that it is unprovoked, which I think is important here. It's not a case of retaliation getting out of hand, which might be a case where a 16 year old might not be expected to know what is acceptable. Its not even a case of tempers getting out of hand. It's a premeditated unprovoked attack with no nuances.

         

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          nasch (profile), Apr 23rd, 2014 @ 10:40am

          Re: Re: Re: I don't see the problem here

          Because some crimes are just so obviously crimes that those defenses can't reasonably apply. You cannot seriously argue that a 16 year old cannot be expected to know that punching people in the head hard enough to knock them out for no reason is illegal, wrong, and will have severe consequences.

          That's fine, as long as it's consistent. If all premeditated violent crime is treated as adult, I would have no problem with that. What would bother me is a seemingly random patchwork of "this crime will be tried in adult court because it seems really bad" and that other one isn't because it hasn't gotten much media attention.

           

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    John A, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 1:29pm

    Well, at least boxing is exempt since BOTH participants are trying to knock out the other, not just one.

     

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    IronM@sk, Apr 17th, 2014 @ 4:14pm

    Somebody think of the children!

    I remember the knockout game as a kid, but I thought the phase had long passed. I'm all for these laws if it stops another episode of this occurring...

    It's A Knockout (AUS) (27 Nov 2011) - Premiere (I: http://youtu.be/hVFSazwSZqM

     

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      nasch (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 7:40am

      Re: Somebody think of the children!

      I'm all for these laws if it stops another episode of this occurring...

      This is already a felony, you think making it more illegal is going to do something?

       

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        Lurker Keith, Apr 19th, 2014 @ 6:01pm

        Re: Re: Somebody think of the children!

        Had you followed the link, you'd know he was making a joke about a game show w/ a similar name.

         

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    Bergman (profile), Apr 17th, 2014 @ 5:47pm

    Wait a second...

    Did Connecticut just outlaw professional boxing?

    I mean, boxers do hit eachother in the head in an attempt to knock eachother out, it's a game/sport and it's usually televised.

     

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    Just Another Anonymous Troll, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 6:57am

    Hope you guys in Connecticut don't have home surveillance systems... That's gonna be a crime now if you get robbed.
    It almost makes me want to rob a bank and then bring charges against them because they recorded my criminal activity.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2014 @ 11:56pm

      Re:

      This is what came to my mind when I read that the legislation would outlaw recording the commission of a crime. So many, many different directions that could lead...

       

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    RevBacon (profile), Apr 18th, 2014 @ 11:25am

    MSM censorship

    Here's a few minutes worth of research. You should feel free to do your own.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/tribnation/chi-when-race-is-mentioned-in-the-chicago-tribune- 20110610,0,136289.story

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/299918/censored-race-war-thomas-sowell

    http://topconservativenews.com/2011/06/chicago-tribune-editor-its-true-we-censor-black-crime/

    http:// www.examiner.com/article/star-ledger-admits-to-censoring-race-savage-post-concert-mob-attacks

    http:// www.americanthinker.com/2011/08/media_stifling_racial_violence_coverage.html

    Of course, if you still remain unconvinced, ask yourself who those people I referenced above are; there are hundreds more like them.Read their stories, and then ask yourself if the races were reversed, and nothing else changed, would they have been page one stories like Trayvon Martin, or not?

     

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    identicon
    Lorenzo, Apr 20th, 2014 @ 9:41pm

    The "Almost new" Knock Out Game Law

    Emergency Certification! Problem solved.

     

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