Rep. Richard Steinberg, a Miami Beach Democrat accused of cyberstalking a married Miami female prosecutor, has voted for several laws that crack down on stalking-–one as recently as this week.
A review of voting records since Steinberg’s 2009 freshman session shows that the former Miami Beach commissioner has cast at least five votes to increase penalties on stalkers and sexual predators who use texting or electronic media during their crimes.
Last week, Steinberg cast a committee vote for HB 1099-Stalking, which expands the definition of ‘aggravated stalking’ to include threats (and implied threats) made via electronic messages (e.g., texts, emails). The bill also expands the definition of “threat” to include any activity that “places another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or safety of his or her family members.” Aggravated stalking is a third-degree felony (up to five years in prison), while stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor (up to one year in prison).
After allegedly sending several text messages to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos referring to her as “Sexxxy Mama” and asking about her newborn son, police began investigating Steinberg, who is suspected of engaging in stalking, the first-degree misdemeanor. Under the bill that he voted for last week, the inappropriate texts—which Steinberg admitted to sending—could be interpreted as an “implied threat,” given the fact that Fernadez-Karavetsos felt compelled to take her complaint to the police. However the bill, which is scheduled to be heard on the House Floor in the coming weeks, would not become law until October 1.
Steinberg, a Miami Beach lawyer who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, has also voted for other measures that relate to cyberstalking.
On Wednesday, the same day he released a statement apologizing for the unsolicited texts, Steinberg cast a committee vote in favor of HB 7047 – Sex Offenses, which requires sexual predators to file all of their instant message user names and email accounts with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
According to Miami Beach police, Steinberg used a Yahoo account--with user name “itsjustme24680"--to send anonymous text messages to Fernandez-Karavetsos. (Note: Steinberg is not suspected of a sexual abuse crime, and no law on sexual predators would apply to his case.)
Here are a few other measures cracking down on cyberstalking and sexting that Steinberg has supported in the last three years:
HB 75 - Offense of Sexting (Vote: 4/7/2011, Judiciary Committee): Provides that minor commits offense of sexting if he or she knowingly uses computer, or any other device capable of electronic data transmission or distribution, to transmit or distribute to another minor any photograph or video of any person which depicts nudity & is harmful to minors; provides noncriminal & criminal penalties; provides that transmission, distribution, or possession of multiple photographs or videos is single offense if transmission occurs within 24-hour period, etc.
HB 7079 - OGSR/Voter Information (Vote: 4/29/2010, Full House): Provides victims of stalking public record exemptions from revealing personally identifying information in voter registration and voting records.
2012 -- HB 215 – Video Voyeurism – (Vote: 1/25/2012, Judiciary Committee): The bill increases the penalties associated with video voyeurism offenses. The penalty for a first-time violation of “video voyeurism,” “video voyeurism dissemination,” or “commercial video voyeurism dissemination” is increased from a 1st degree misdemeanor to a 3rd degree felony. The penalty for a second or subsequent violation is increased from a 3rd degree felony to a 2nd degree felony.
HB 437 – Protection of Minors (Vote: 2/1/2012, Judiciary Committee): Designates act "Protect Our Children Act of 2012"; requires person convicted of second or subsequent violation of specified video voyeurism provisions to register as sexual predator; provides that if more than one child is involved in violation of provisions prohibiting sexual performance by child, each child involved in violation creates separate offense; requires person convicted of video voyeurism violations to register as sexual offender; revises definition of term "sexual offender" to include persons convicted of specified video voyeurism provisions; increases classification of specified video voyeurism offenses involving minors.