Georgia's looks to close loophole in extortion bill to target 'sextortion'

Thursday, April 4, 2019
News 12 at 6 O'Clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- It's a bill 2 years in the making.

Georgia lawmakers got it through judiciary last year, but they couldn't get through the house, but this year they were able to get past both.

Sen. Harold Jones championed the sextortion bill.

"It's something that is really growing unfortunately and in Georgia we stepped up and did a great job at addressing the issue,” Jones said.

Jones found cases in Waynesboro and Aiken County. He says military members are often the ones targeted.

“They had pictures of military persons and they asked for money but you can see exactly where this can go where persons can ask for military secrets or things of that nature,” Jones said.

The problem up until this point was that the current extortion laws have to do with money -- not people threatening you unless you hand over pictures or information.

"So it doesn't fit the standard extortion statute, so it's a complete loophole in the law that there really was no way to prosecute the people for this particular conduct,” Jones said.

But the new sextortion law would make it illegal. And with crime comes punishment. Your first offense is a high and aggravated misdemeanor. But your second is a felony with one to five years in prison.

"We hope that will be a deterrent because what we're really trying to do is to stop even the request,” Jones said.

The last hurdle Georgia lawmakes have to get over is Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature. If it passes, Georgia would be the 7th state to have this sextortion law. The same kind of bill in South Carolina is still making its way through the House.