Ohio Legislators pass bills on child crime

Ohio legislators passed two bills on crimes against children during House and Senate sessions Wednesday, both prompted by cases from the Dayton area.

Substitute House Bill 4 now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature. . Sponsored by state Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., it grew out of the 2019 murder of 10-year-old Takoda Collins and Dayton Daily News coverage after his death.

The other, House Bill 161, sponsored by state Rep. Brian Lampton, R-Beavercreek, is called “Jacob’s Law” in honor of Jacob Barker, killed in 2015 at age 2. It passed the House and now heads to the Senate.

HB 4 will create an ombudsman office to oversee children services; mandate that each county’s children services office create a memorandum of understanding of its obligations that the state must approve; require children services to send their reports to local, state or federal government, and follow up with whoever reported abuse or neglect; and let a juvenile court judge order an interview or investigation when a parent refuses access to a child.

Takoda died at Dayton Children’s Hospital in December 2019. Investigators say his father, Al-Mutahan McLean, tortured him for years: locking him in an attic, forcing him to stand bent over and cross-legged for long periods, and beating him. Takoda’s death was ruled a result of blunt force trauma and drowning in a bathtub.

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In September 2021, McLean and his girlfriend pleaded guilty to causing Takoda’s death. Dayton police and children services implemented new policies after a Dayton Daily News investigation found inaction to earlier reports that Takoda was being abused.

Lampton said former state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, submitted an earlier version of Jacob’s Law in 2019. Perales said then that he’d been working on it through three General Assembly sessions.

“After I was elected but before I took office, I met with then-Rep. Perales and with the family, and promised I would carry this again, just because of the horrific nature of the story,” Lampton said.

The previous bill had an appropriation attached to it, funding creation of the offender database; and it may have gotten held up in the Appropriations Committee, Lampton said.

But now passage of “Sierah’s Law” — named for 20-year-old Sierah Joughin, murdered in 2016 by a repeat violent offender in Fulton County — has already created a database of violent offenders, meaning no additional funding is needed, Lampton said.

Under HB 161, people convicted of domestic violence or permitting child abuse would be required to register on the violent offender database if they were over 18 and their victim was under age 14 when the crime was committed.

If people have doubts about someone who may be watching their family’s children, they’ll be able to check for them on the database, Lampton said. But it won’t be searchable online.

“The public will still have to actively go to their county sheriff’s department to look up a name,” he said.

Jacob died from a head injury in August 2015 while in the care of Justin Payne. In April 2016 Payne was sentenced to 16 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and tampering with evidence.

Payne had previously served 2½ years in prison for fracturing a baby’s skull and breaking its ribs, a felony conviction Jacob’s family didn’t know about.

Parolee monitoring

The House unanimously passed a bipartisan bill to increase regulation of GPS monitoring for released felons. Substitute House Bill 166, expands the existing “Reagan Tokes Law.” It now heads to the Senate.

Tokes, an Ohio State University student, was murdered in 2017 by Brian Goldsby, who had recently been released from prison. Bill sponsor state Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, said Goldsby was wearing a GPS monitor and was on supervised release, living in transitional housing, but still committed multiple violent crimes in the Columbus area leading up to Tokes’ murder.

House Bill 166 makes some changes to the sentencing and appeal process for nonlife indefinite felony sentences, and it also requires everyone on GPS monitoring to have set geographic exclusion zones. It also requires the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to establish a reentry system for released offenders who are rejected by private transitional-housing firms, Boggs said. Currently those state-contracted private firms can pick the parolees they want, meaning the felons most likely to reoffend are getting the least support, she said.

The bill also requires setting standards for parole officer caseloads, and establishes a commission to ensure supervision policy in step with national best practices and technology, Boggs said.

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Kratom regulation

A bill to regulate the kratom industry passed the House 82-9, heading for Senate consideration. House Bill 236, sponsored by state Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, was requested in large part by kratom processors, Lipps said. The drug is freely sold statewide without regulation, but adulterated versions marketed by “bad actors” have caused harm, he said.

The bill establishes purity and strength standards for kratom.

Property taxes

The House concurred with minor Senate alterations to Substitute House Bill 51, which passed the House in March and cleared the Senate in January.

Lampton, the bill’s sponsor, said the Senate added authorization for public bodies, such as local governments, to continue meeting virtually until June 30 due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The previous authorization for virtual meetings expired in July.

The main purpose of HB 51, however, is to provide a new way to reduce taxes on property that has been damaged or destroyed, such as by the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes.

Previously the only way to get taxable value reduced was for the property owner to request a reduction personally, or for two nearby residents to file an affidavit attesting to the damage.

House Bill 51, now going to the governor’s desk, lets the local county auditor unilaterally reduce the property valuation in accordance with the damage.

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