Senator Hill Introduces Bill to Aid DAs in Prosecuting Suspects Accused of Victimizing the Elderly in Crime Sprees That Hop From County to County

February 15, 2019

For Immediate Release – Office of State Senator Jerry Hill – February 15, 2019

Media Contacts:
Leslie Guevarra for Senator Hill, 415-298-3404, leslie.guevarra@sen.ca.gov
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, 650-363-4636

Senator Jerry Hill Introduces Bill to Aid DAs in Prosecuting Suspects Accused of Victimizing the Elderly in Crime Sprees That Hop From County to County

SB 304 Proposed at Urging of San Mateo County DA

SACRAMENTO – District attorneys would have a new tool in prosecuting cases of elderly abuse and fraud that span multiple counties under legislation introduced today by state Senator Jerry Hill.

Senate Bill 304 would allow district attorneys to consolidate such criminal cases into a single prosecution. The move would ease the burden for the elderly who, having become crime victims of a suspected serial perpetrator or perpetrators, must then cope with the challenges of testifying multiple times and in multiple locations as prosecutors press their cases.

“Our elder population, who have contributed so much to our community, deserve special consideration and protection from those who would prey upon them,” said San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, who proposed the legislation to Senator Hill. “This bill will help us prosecute the most prolific elder abuse offenders.”

“We cannot let our elderly who fall victim to a variety of abuse, including fraud, experience further trauma as a result of the unintended consequences of existing law,” said Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “Law already exists to help protect vulnerable populations when certain crimes – like child abuse, domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault – are perpetrated in multiple counties. The law should be changed to so that its protection embraces the elderly.”

District Attorney Wagstaffe recently urged the senator to introduce a bill to do so as his office sought to consolidate the prosecution of cases involving three elderly men in San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa counties who were swindled out of almost $55,000 in money and valuables. When the scam against one victim nearly faltered, he was threatened with the murder of his family if he did not withdraw money from his bank and hand it over.

Prosecutors in the counties were able to consolidate the three cases on the grounds that it involved a conspiracy among the suspects, only one of whom so far has been identified. Because of that, however, the consolidation is likely to face legal challenges. Current law does not provide an avenue to consolidate crimes of elder abuse that occur in multiple counties and involve a single defendant.

SB 304 would give prosecutors a clear legal path to consolidate such cases provided that the prosecutors agree to do so and a hearing is conducted on the proposed consolidation.

The legislation addresses a growing crime trend.

According to the National Council on Aging, 1 in 10 Americans ages 60 and older have experienced a form of elder abuse. As many as 6 million cases occur in the United States each year, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. California leads the country in terms of the frequency of elder abuse cases, with 11 percent of the country’s cases occurring in the Golden State, the center says.

Approximately 200,000 elder and dependent adults are abused in California each year, according to the state Attorney General. In San Mateo County, an average of 148 cases of financial abuse against elders occurs each month, the county District Attorney’s Office said.

###

The text for SB 304 will be available at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/ within 24 hours.

Draft text of the bill is available at:
https://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/sb304_elder_abuse_multi-county_prosecution.pdf

Background information compiled by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office is available here:
https://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/factsheet-sb304-elder_abuse_multi-county_prosecution.pdf

DA Wagstaffe’s letter to Senator Hill is here:
https://sd13.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd13.senate.ca.gov/files/2018-12-18letter_smc_da_to_senhill.pdf