HARRISBURG, March 3, 2014 – To make it safer for people to cooperate with police during criminal investigations, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams today said he will re-introduce legislation that could mean jail time for people who publish confidential names of witnesses and victims on the internet.
“When people publish the names of people who bravely step forward to help police solve a crime – or have been the victim of crime themselves – it is called obstruction of justice,” Williams said. “If signed into law, my bill could mean as many as 10 years behind bars for the people who break this trust and break the law.”
Williams’ legislation, Senate Bill 1263, would create the “Website Witness & Victim Protection Act” and it would be a second-degree felony if someone publishes names of witnesses or victims in violation of the act.
Those found guilty of the crime could be sentenced to between one and 10 years in prison.
“Publication of these names is an attempt to intimidate people who might become witnesses in future criminal investigations,” the senator said. “It definitely has a chilling effect because it also encourages retaliation against past witnesses, victims and their families.”
Sen. Williams introduced the bill during the prior session and it received bipartisan support. However, the proposal was not considered in committee. Since then, the Democrat said more websites have been revealing the names of witnesses and are giving SB 1263 more urgency.