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Maryland Senate OKs bill giving longer sentences in violent crimes against pregnant women

The Maryland Senate approved a bill Friday that would allow for longer sentences for defendants convicted of crimes of violence against a pregnant woman.

Laura and Reid’s Law is named in honor of Laura Wallen, a Wilde Lake High School teacher who was 14 weeks pregnant at the time she was killed in 2017. Her boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, was charged in her death and was found dead of an apparent suicide in jail while awaiting trial.

Wallen’s family said she had planned to name the child Reid.

The bill allows for an enhanced penalty of up to 10 extra years in prison for a defendant convicted of a crime of violence when the defendant knew the victim was pregnant.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Justin Ready, a Carroll County Republican, was changed significantly from how he introduced it.

As introduced, the bill would have made it a crime to kill a fetus that had reached at least eight weeks gestation. That’s a significant difference from current law — which allows murder or manslaughter charges when a “viable” fetus is killed — and drew opposition from abortion rights organizations. In Maryland, viability of a fetus is generally considered to be about 24 weeks.

“It seemed unconscionable to me that there was no recourse to charge Tessier beyond the murder charge for Laura Wallen,” Ready said.

Ready said it was clear his original version would not pass, so he worked to revise the bill.

The Senate approved the revised bill on a 46-1 vote. It now moves to the House of Delegates for consideration. The House has not acted on its version of the bill, as of Friday night.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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