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Tighter Laws on Gang Criminals

State Representative Phyllis Henderson (R - Greenville) is proposing legislation that stiffens penalties on recruiting gang members, increases bond requirements for repeat offenders, and institutes mandatory minimum sentences for criminals who commit crimes while out on bond awaiting trial in other crimes.

The changes come after Martha Childress, a freshman at University of South Carolina and a J.L. Mann High School graduate from the Upstate, was shot and paralyzed by a stray bullet in the Five Points area of Columbia last week.

"I'm not gonna point any fingers and blame anybody, but the system has let her down, and we've got to do something," said Henderson. "These are repeat offenders who are continuing to get out on bond or probation. Judges are part of the problem, they keep letting people out. The laws are not strong enough to give law enforcement and judges the tools they need to keep people in jail."

Greenville County Sheriff Steve Loftis was on-hand Tuesday during the announcement, and supports Henderson's proposal. He even said some changes to the state's Stand Your Ground law may be necessary, since it's being used as a defense by the suspect--Michael Juan Smith--accused of shooting Childress.

"Bearing in mind the shooter is a convicted felon, barred by federal law from possessing a firearm, in this case a stolen firearm, no one who is breaking the law should be afforded the protection of stand your ground," said Loftis.


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