Bill shields violence victims


By Andrew Welsh-Huggins - AP Legal Affairs Writer



COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio is trying to catch up with other states by shielding the addresses of victims of domestic violence, stalking and other crimes from use by government agencies.

Proposed legislation would let victims apply for a confidential address from the Ohio secretary of state if they’re worried about attackers tracking them down.

Victims could use the address when registering to vote or for any business with a government agency such as a city water department, school or public university. The secretary of state’s office would forward mail to the real address daily. Thirty-eight other states have similar provisions.

A woman whose ex-husband killed their two children and her mother seven years ago after stalking her in northeastern Ohio is among those pushing for the bill’s passage.

Marcia Eakin told lawmakers late last year she thought she’d hidden her whereabouts but ex-husband James Mammone found her after she registered her vehicle and registered to vote.

On June 8, 2009, Mammone stabbed his 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son to death as they were strapped in their car seats in Canton. He then went to the home of his ex-wife’s mother, whom he severely beat and shot twice, killing her.

A jury convicted Mammone and sentenced him to death. The Ohio Supreme Court upheld his death sentence in 2014.

Although Mammone is behind bars, “I still do not feel comfortable allowing my address to be public,” Eakin testified.

The growth of the Internet has meant more and more of people’s personal information is now online, said bill co-sponsor Rep. Anne Gonzales, a Republican from Westerville in suburban Columbus.

Almost every time someone moves, gets divorced or buys a car the information becomes available, she said.

Shielding addresses of people fearing attack is especially important as they leave abusive relationships, when violence tends to increase, said Nancy Neylon, executive director of the Ohio Domestic Violence network.

“A confidential address can be a critical component of safety planning for victims who fear further violence or even lethal retaliation from their abuser,” she told lawmakers.

Under the bill, victims of sexual assault and human trafficking also could apply for a confidential address.

The latest version of the bill would allow certain law enforcement officials — such as sheriffs and chiefs of police — to access the true address through a confidential criminal justice database.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has advocated strongly for the measure. Similar bills have been introduced as far back as the 1990s, but Husted said he believes this proposal will be successful.

The bill has passed out of committee and has no opposition. The Senate is considering similar legislation.

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins

AP Legal Affairs Writer

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