Pennsylvania State Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, is trying to stir some momentum behind a bill, known as Cody’s Law, that, if it becomes law, would charge any individual who afflicts bodily harm to a person with a physical or intellectual disability with a second-degree felony.
Currently in Pennsylvania, in order for an assault on a person with a disability to be considered a felony, the victim must have suffered “serious bodily injury” for charges to be elevated beyond misdemeanor simple assault.
Cody’s Law is dedicated to Cody Overdorff, a young man with Williams Syndrome who was lured and attacked by four people in an Indiana County park on Aug. 20. A bystander captured video of the incident, and it was shared online.
Cody’s Law would broaden what could be constituted as a criminal offense, opening offenders up to being prosecuted for a felony.
Struzzi said that he would also co-sponsor similar legislation already under consideration that would add “intellectual or physical disability” to the list of factors to prosecute such an attack as a hate crime.
People with Williams Syndrome tend to be extremely warm and overly friendly, especially toward strangers who are older than them. Dana Detwiler, Overdorff’s mother, said at a fundraising event Saturday that Overdorff shouldn’t have been subjected to the attack just because of his friendly demeanor.
Struzzi said in a statement that the need for this bill was made “abundantly clear” after Overdorff was lured and beaten without provocation.
“I believe individuals who target vulnerable and helpless victims pose a significant threat to our society and should be subject to harsher penalties under the law,” Struzzi said.
The bill was publicly unveiled at Saturday’s benefit for Overdorff, who has since recovered from the attack and attended the event.
“We’re totally ecstatic about it, and that some good can come out of something so bad,” Detwiler said at the event. “We thank Rep. Struzzi so much for pushing for ‘Cody’s Law,’ and we hope they go on a mission now.”