Senator Bell Legislation To Expand Crime of Terrorism Advances

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TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Colin Bell to expand the definition of terrorism, with the intention of addressing acts of domestic terrorism, was approved today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“We’ve seen horrific acts of domestic terrorism in New Jersey and elsewhere,” said Senator Bell (D-Atlantic). “We should use the full force of state law to punish those who have acted to harm or take the lives of innocent victims for no other reason than who they are, or what they believe in.”

Under current law, a person is guilty of terrorism if he or she commits, attempts, conspires, or threatens to commit certain crimes, including murder, aggravated manslaughter, vehicular homicide, aggravated assault, with the purpose to: promote an act of terror; terrorize five or more persons;  influence the policy or affect the conduct of government by terror; or cause, by an act of terror, the impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public or private buildings, common carriers, public utilities, or other public services.

“Promoting an act of terror” under the law would include influencing or inciting an act of terror against an individual or group of individuals based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or creed, under the bill (S-3448).

A 2017 counter-terrorism report by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness found that domestic attacks across the U.S. are on the rise. The “threat assessment” ranks homegrown violent extremists as the single-highest threat to New Jersey, citing the increase of lone wolf assaults.

A review done by the homeland security office found 22 domestic terror attacks and 17 plots, threats of violence, and instances of weapons stockpiling in 2016. The previous year, the office counted just 16 instances in each category.

The bill was approved by a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the Senate for a vote.