By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Child rape victims have legal permission to secretly record their rapists under legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott one day after an ice cream truck driver who was serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting his stepdaughter was acquitted at a second trial.
The bill Scott signed Friday was a response to the Florida Supreme Court ordering a new trial for Richard McDade, who was convicted of repeatedly raping his stepdaughter when she was between 10 and 16. A judge during the first trial allowed recordings of conversations McDade had with his stepdaughter that she secretly recorded with an MP3 player hidden in her shirt.
But the Supreme Court ruled the recording was illegal and ordered a new trial last December. Florida prohibits conversations to be recorded or otherwise intercepted without the consent of both parties. The new law makes an exception for children who are victims or potential victims of rape and other violent acts that record their attackers. The law takes effect July 1.
McDade, 68, walked free Thursday after a Lee County jury that didn’t hear the recordings acquitted him. The Lee County state attorney’s office said the recordings wouldn’t have been allowed at the second trial even if the Legislature and Scott acted sooner because they were illegal at the time they were made.
Sexual abuse victim advocate Lauren Book said the bill signing was one good outcome of the case, though she was outraged at McDade’s acquittal.
“Nobody can or should feel good about this. The only silver lining is this won’t happen going forward,” said Book, who founded Lauren Kid’s, a nonprofit group that raises awareness about sexual abuse and seeks to prevent it. “It’s sort of sad that children need to be their own heroes sometimes, but that is what this bill does.”
Lee County Assistant state attorney Tyler Lovejoy, who prosecuted the McDade case, praised the new law.
“It is easy to stand behind legislation that protects children,” Lovejoy said. “Anytime that legislation opens the door for new, corroborative evidence to be admitted in the courtroom, it is both bold and inspiring. What is most exciting about today is the prospect that prosecutors have a new weapon to use against those who seek to harm children, and those same children can provide a new voice to those who still do not believe in monsters.”
Scott also signed a bill allowing rural letter carriers drive their routes without wearing seat belts.