Editorial: Penalties proposal endorsed

Jun. 03, 2014 @ 11:21 PM

Gov. Pat McCrory’s prompting came from Wake County. He could have made the move after charges were filed in Warren County last year.

We endorse his action to help create a stronger deterrent to crime committed behind bars. It’s an element of the judicial system most everyone acknowledges exists but too often doesn’t get attacked.

No plan is likely to end all criminal acts directed from prison. But our governor is taking a step in the right direction. We hope the General Assembly can follow through with more teeth in our laws.

Sgt. Terry Williams is the deputy in Warren County who was the target of a 2013 murder plot. The co-defendants are Eddie Wilson and Jeremiah Stephen Royster. The latter already has one murder conviction, for which he has served his time.

Royster has a court appearance scheduled this month.

In April, the father of a Wake County assistant district attorney was kidnapped in a multi-state plot. It is believed to have been aided by a cellphone illegally obtained within the Polk Correctional Institution in Butner.

McCrory’s proposal would change classifications on several crimes of retaliation and widen government officials to include their family members. The cellphone incident, for example, would go from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class F felony.

Tougher felony charges would also be in place, respectively, if these government officials are:

• assaulted, or their home or residence violently attacked;

• assaulted with a deadly weapon;

• inflicted with serious bodily injury; or

• threatened to be seriously harmed or killed.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, the hope is for a bill to come forward in the current short session.

In a press release issued by his office, McCrory said, “State officials should be able to fulfill their duties without fearing for their family’s safety.”

That’s always going to be a challenge, no matter the laws or penalties. Law enforcement and officers of the court realize and accept that burden when choosing their profession. It is a part of why we have come to respect and appreciate them so much.

Punishment has consequences. Laws need to move forward with society’s changes. And this time, that means tougher penalties.