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ESPN's Erin Andrews speaks in support of tougher stalking law

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Erin Andrews: 'There is hope'
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reporter joins lawmakers to support legislation
  • The man who taped Andrews was sentenced to more than two years in prison
  • Legislation is set for debate on the House floor Tuesday
  • A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate

Washington (CNN) -- The man convicted of videotaping her through a hotel peephole was sentenced to two years in prison, ESPN reporter Erin Andrews said Tuesday, but in a way, she was sentenced to a lifetime of looking over her shoulder.

"The one thing that I think is very, very sad about the whole ordeal is, he's going to jail for a little over two years," said Andrews, who appeared with members of Congress on Tuesday in support of legislation to strengthen federal stalking laws. "That video on the Internet will be there for the rest of my life."

Someday, she said, she will need to explain the video to her future husband and children.

"These stories are not easy to talk about," Andrews said. "It's so funny. I work in the public eye. I'm used to these cameras all the time, but it's easier for me to talk about touchdowns and errors. ... This is not easy for me at all."

Video: Andrews: Apology not enough
RELATED TOPICS
  • Erin Andrews
  • Stalking

The legislation -- Simplifying the Ambiguous Law, Keeping Everyone Reliably Safe Act, or STALKERS -- was introduced in the House last week by Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-California, and Virginia Foxx, R-North Carolina.

The "long overdue" bill is set for debate on the House floor Tuesday, Sanchez said.

Stalking laws have not caught up with emerging technology, she said, and the bill will bring the laws into the present "to give law enforcement the tools they need to combat stalking in the digital age."

The legislation would cover technologies such as electronic monitoring, spyware, bugging and video surveillance, she said. A victim presently must have a "reasonable fear of physical injury" before a case can be prosecuted, she said, and sometimes that is too late.

"The bottom line: Stalking is about power and control," she said. "It's a violation of the worst kind, and we need to put a law in place in our justice system that helps us and gives us every available tool."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, said she plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate and is procuring a Republican author. A former prosecutor, Klobuchar said that although stalking is "one of the most invasive crimes," it can be difficult to prove and tricky to prosecute.

She thanked Andrews for coming forward but noted, "there are cases like this all over the country every day" involving women who are not in the public eye. She recalled a case in Minnesota in which an online relationship soured and a man posted pictures of a woman's children, along with their full names, addresses and telephone number, on child pornography sites, encouraging people to molest them.

In March, a federal judge sentenced an Illinois man to 2 1/2 years in prison for taping Andrews in the nude through the peephole and posting the video on the Internet. Michael David Barrett, 49, pleaded guilty to a federal stalking charge in December after prosecutors accused him of altering hotel peepholes so he could shoot video of Andrews.

"I have seen with my own eyes through firsthand experience that the laws have been taken way too lightly. They aren't clear, and they have not kept up with the technology or the time," Andrews said, her voice shaking at times. "At times over the past year, I have screamed. I have cried. I have said to my family, 'Why me? Why is this happening to me?' "

But, she said, she received "countless letters -- I'm still receiving them -- from women who say, 'Please go out and fight this. Please go out and show your face.' ... I'm showing my face. I'm lending my voice. And I'm here to give this law some teeth."

She said her message to victims is, "There is hope, and there is help, and if you need help, do not be ashamed to ask for it."

The legislation increases penalties for offenses where a restraining order is in place and for offenses involving children or the elderly, lawmakers said.

Currently, the federal law applies only to criminals who travel over state lines, but the new legislation will cover any conduct that criminals engage in that affects interstate commerce, Sanchez and Klobuchar said. Although most stalking cases are prosecuted at the state level, the federal law will serve as a model, they said.

 
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