Yesterday, a previously convicted man was allowed to walk free. Yesterday, a man who was convicted and designated as a child molester, sentenced to life in prison, was acquitted. Yesterday, Richard McDade was allowed to take back the keys to his ice cream truck and resume business as usual.
But today, Florida and our Governor Rick Scott took a strong and visionary step toward making sure children’s voices are heard when they come forward to disclose sexual abuse with the signing of HB 7001 into law. Child victims of sexual abuse will be now able to use technology such as cell phones to record incriminating statements from their abusers and capture proof that these acts occurred.
This does not change the fact that a young girl’s abuser in Lee County — her step-father, ice cream truck driver Richard McDade — is walking free because of the law that has now been changed to allow Florida’s criminal justice system to catch up with technology, but it will change the trajectory for so many other young victims across the state.
It takes tremendous courage for a child to step forward and great resourcefulness to capture a conversation that proves his or her story. Because many young victims feel isolated and alone, and are afraid of not being believed, this step forward is critical for Florida’s children to be both heard and helped. It gives young people the power to seek justice, and to be the hero in their own story, even when others turn a blind eye.
Without this critical piece of evidence to corroborate children’s allegations, too many predators walk free. Let’s not forget: The only difference between McDade serving a life sentence in prison and a lifetime ability to victimize children was one audio file not allowed into evidence in his second trial.
The new law signed today is the result of the tireless dedication of Representatives Moskowitz and Trujillo and Senators Benacquisto and Simpson, who swiftly led the effort to move this legislation forward for Governor Scott’s signature, with outstanding support from Attorney General Pam Bondi. Florida legislators drafted and filed this bill following the aforementioned Supreme Court decision in the McDade v. State case, in which a cell phone recording of abuse was ruled inadmissible in court because it was taken without the consent of the abuser.
This new law signifies real hope for children whose voices have been silenced. I thank Governor Scott and the members of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives for helping child sexual abuse victims bring their abusers to justice and for giving children a voice.