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  • Writer's pictureAlicia Kozak

Wisconsin lawmakers move quickly on bill aimed at fighting internet crimes against children

Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, introduced legislation that aims to help law enforcement investigate and prosecute people who commit internet crimes against children.

Wisconsin lawmakers are moving quickly to pass a bill that would expand law enforcement officers' ability to investigate and prosecute those who commit internet crimes against children. 

The bill, introduced Monday, would create a dedicated revenue source to fund the state Department of Justice's Internet Crimes Against Children task force and includes a provision designed to speed up the process through which investigators can track down the source of the criminal activity. The effort is part of a national push to create dedicated funding sources at the state level for law enforcement units that deal with child exploitation. This bill, like similar ones in other states, is called Alicia's Law. The legislation is named for Alicia Kozakiewicz, who survived being abducted and sexually abused on film when she was 13.

Kozakiewicz, who now advocates for internet safety, was at the state Capitol Wednesday with bill authors Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, and Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, and Attorney General Brad Schimel. The bill was given a public hearing in Senate and Assembly committees on Wednesday. Under the bill, any person in Wisconsin convicted of a crime would be required to pay an internet crimes against children surcharge — $20 for a misdemeanor conviction and $40 for a felony conviction. Schimel said the surcharge would generate an estimated $2.2 million in funding.  The bill would also allow the attorney general, or his or her designee, to issue an administrative subpoena to an internet service provider to compel the provider to release information that could aid an investigation of internet crimes against a child. 

Kozakiewicz was found because her captor, whom she had met in an internet chat room, broadcast footage of her being sexually abused and a viewer recognized her photo from a missing person photo. The viewer tipped the FBI, and officials were able to identify her abuser by his IP address. She was rescued after four days.

Time is of the essence in these situations, she and Schimel said, arguing the subpoena power can help shorten the time it takes to track down an IP address and determine which county's law enforcement agency should take the case. The attorney general could request the subpoena be kept confidential until all relevant documents were produced, and the internet service provider would be able to go to court to try to limit or quash the subpoena. The bill has bipartisan support, but several Democrats on the Assembly criminal justice committee questioned the creation of the surcharge. 

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, questioned why the bill didn't request the funds come from a budget appropriation instead, noting that money from the state budget would be more reliable as a steady funding source than someone recently convicted of a crime. 

Kleefisch said he would be happy to introduce a budget amendment requesting state funds in the next budget cycle, but argued the bill wouldn't make it to Gov. Scott Walker's desk this session if the funds were requested that way now.

"It's a priority for me ... to get it to the governor's desk," Kleefisch said. "This is one of the most steadfast, quickest ways to do that."

The Department of Justice estimates at least 4,000 internet connections in Wisconsin are used to trade child pornography, Schimel said.

By: Jessie Opoien, The Capital Times


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