When Ed Peisner got the call that “Jordan’s Law” had been signed into law Wednesday, he was “moved to tears.”
That’s because Peisner thinks that Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the bill, which aims to deter social media motivated attacks planned for the purpose of filming and posting online for attention, sends a strong message to youth.
Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, D-Van Nuys, introduced the bill after Peisner’s then-14-year-old son, Jordan, was sucker-punched last December by a teen he did not know. The brutal assault outside a Wendy’s in West Hills was captured on video and posted on Snapchat.
“It’s one small step towards affecting the lives of children not just in California but everywhere,” Peisner, a single father of three, said in a phone interview. “We created a change. We’re able to now use this as a teaching tool to help kids understand that the phone can’t be a weapon and if used that way, there are going to be consequences.”
Under the law, if a defendant convicted of a violent felony also willfully recorded a video of that crime with the intent to encourage or facilitate the offense, the courts can consider that recording as a factor in sentencing.
A previous version of the bill would have made such an act an enhancement to a criminal felony, thus adding a year to the court’s sentence. As an aggravating factor, the judge could have discretion in how long to sentence the convicted felon.
Peisner, who testified in support of Assembly Bill 1542 in Sacramento, said it was “mind-boggling” how quickly it became law. It was signed less than a year after the attack on his son.
“The part of it that I think touched everybody was the fact that everybody is walking around with a phone in their hand — every child — and this can be anybody’s child,” he said.
Jordan sustained serious injuries from the December assault, including a large blood clot to the brain, hearing loss and a concussion, and had to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, according to his father. A civil lawsuit filed on behalf of Jordan and his father is pending.
The number of social media motivated attacks, including those on children, the elderly and those with disabilities, has risen significantly each year since the mid-2000s, Dababneh said. Jordan’s Law aims to ensure that the state’s criminal code catches up to such harmful technological trends.
“AB 1542, by maximizing the sentence for those who conspire with attackers to videotape a violent crime, will serve as a strong message to our youth that California will not tolerate this sick desire for internet notoriety,” the assemblyman said in a statement.
The male juvenile who punched Jordan was arrested by Los Angeles police and received an undisclosed sentence. A juvenile female who was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy in the attack was later found “not guilty” by a jury of her peers and a judicial officer in Los Angeles County’s Teen Court program.
Another girl believed to have shot the video of Jordan’s punch that was posted on Snapchat told the Daily News this past summer that she did not conspire with the perpetrator, her then-boyfriend, in the assault of Jordan or in the posting of the video. She said she took the video down shortly after posting it.
The Los Angeles Police Department said the girl was not involved in any conspiracy, and she was not arrested or charged.
“We’re able to now use this as a teaching tool to help kids understand that the phone can’t be a weapon and if used that way, there are going to be consequences.”
— Ed Peisner
Peisner is now setting his sights on potential federal legislation. He said he plans to work with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Burbank, in an effort to create something similar on a national scale.
“Change has to be national; it can’t just happen in one place,” Peisner said.
Through the nonprofit #JordanStrong Foundation, Peisner said he’s working with teachers and therapists to develop a curriculum for an 8-month program for middle schools and high school students. The program, which he hopes will be adopted by local school districts, would tackle themes including bullying, cyber-bullying, social media awareness and, now, Jordan’s Law.
“I want to use (the law) as a learning tool to teach kids that the phone is not a weapon — please put it down,” he said.
“Think before you post.”
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