Pilot Program Named for Letizia Zindell, A Domestic Violence Victim Murdered by her Former Fiancée
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Gabriela Mosquera and Daniel Benson that would establish a pilot program for the electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders in New Jersey was approved Thursday by the General Assembly.
“Under our current system, it is far too easy for domestic violence offenders to get close to their victims again after an initial attack has occurred,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “It is a recipe for tragedy and is, frankly, unacceptable. Letting domestic violence victims literally see when trouble is heading their way will help them stay one step ahead of attackers hell bent on becoming repeat offenders.”
On August 13, 2009, Letizia “Lisa” Zindell, of Toms River was murdered by her former fiancée, Frank Frisco, who then killed himself. The murder-suicide attack occurred just one day after Frisco was released from jail for violating a restraining order that Ms. Zindell had filed against him.
“Lisa’s Law” (A-3806), named in honor of Ms. Zindell, would establish a four-year pilot program in Ocean County for electronic monitoring of domestic violence offenders and notification to victims.
“Nowhere is safe for a victim of domestic violence,” said Mosquera (D-Gloucester), herself a witness to domestic violence attacks on her mother. “Every trip home or around town, every unfamiliar shadow, every out-of-place bump or creak carries the potential of another attack. It is as unnerving as it is horrible and for most victims, even police intervention and court orders do nothing to stem that dread.”
“However, giving victims the ability to know precisely where their attackers are, at all times, gives them power over the most insidious part of a domestic violence attack: the fear,” continued Mosquera. “And that simple level of control will go a long way towards helping the victims put their lives back together again.”
The pilot program would apply to individuals charged with or convicted of contempt of a domestic violence order, such as violating the terms of a restraining order. When choosing whether or not to place a domestic violence offender under electronic monitoring, the court would weigh factors such as the seriousness of the attack, the previous domestic violence history of the offender and whether participation in the program would likely deter the offender from harming the victim again. Offenders placed on electronic monitoring would be required to pay the costs and expenses related to the monitoring and victim notification on a sliding scale, based on their finances.
“Letizia Zindell tried to protect herself, but sadly, the restraining order she filed was not enough to stop her murderer,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Like Letizia, there are countless others who have died at the hands of their abusers. Victims who have filed restraining orders against their abusers often need an additional layer of protection. We must do more and this program will.”
Offenders under electronic monitoring would be observed 24-hours-a-day. Violation or noncompliance with the terms of the electronic monitoring would generate a notice sent to the victim and would be investigated by police in an expedited fashion.
Under the bill, tampering, removing or vandalizing a monitoring device would carry penalties of up to $15,000 and between three to five years in jail. Once implemented, the bill would require anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense to pay a civil penalty of $200 per year for five years. These funds would be used to establish a “Domestic Violence Victim Notification Fund,” a dedicated, non-lapsing fund in the state budget, administered by the state attorney general, which would be used to defray the costs of the electronic monitoring program. Additionally, to fund the initial equipment investment for the program, $2.5 million would be allocated from the state budget to the notification fund.
The pilot program would begin immediately upon enactment of the legislation and would run for four years. At the end of that time, the state attorney general would submit a report to the governor and the legislature evaluating the program and recommending whether it should be implemented statewide.
The bill was approved 77-0-1 and now awaits further consideration by the Senate.