ELDRIDGE PROPOSES LIFE SENTENCES FOR CHILD PREDATORS
LITTLE ROCK – Former prosecutor and U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge today said if elected to the U.S. Senate, he would introduce legislation that would increase the maximum sentence for child predators, including first-time offenders, to life in prison. Eldridge made the announcement on the heels of an open house tonight for the Wade Knox Children Advocacy Center in Lonoke to celebrate ten years of helping child victims recover from sexual abuse and neglect, as well as aiding law enforcement in prosecuting the perpetrators. Eldridge is a graduate of Lonoke High School.
“Wade Knox’s story is one that has haunted me most of my adult life – that there are evil people in our communities that rob our children of a full, happy and healthy life,” said Eldridge. “I became a prosecutor and U.S. Attorney to put dangerous criminals behind bars, including child predators, and to help children who deal with violence or exploitation to get the resources and support they need to recover. Harming a child is among the worst of the worst crimes, which is why, as senator, I would fight to increase the maximum sentence to life in prison for those who sexually abuse children and produce images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct – including for first-time offenders. Those who prey on children, like in Wade Knox’s case, should be sent to prison for life.”
Wade Knox was a boy who grew up in Lonoke and was sexually abused for most of his childhood by his uncle and scoutmaster, Charles “Jack” Walls III. Wade ultimately committed suicide. In 1998, Walls pled guilty to five counts of rape and no contest to one count of raping another boy. He was eventually sentenced to three life terms, plus three 40-year terms, to be served concurrently. Today, the Wade Knox Children’s Advocacy Center works around the clock in Wade’s honor to reduce the trauma of child abuse by providing a child-friendly and safe environment; foster professional collaboration and cooperation; and promote education and advocacy regarding the prevention of child abuse within the community.
“As a father of three young boys, I am continually inspired by the dedication, compassion, love and support from these folks at the Wade Knox Center. They are truly doing God’s great work,” said Eldridge. “Every child deserves a chance to achieve his or her dreams, and we as a community must do everything we can to not only protect our children from those who wish to do them harm, but to help victims recover.. Just as I did as U.S. Attorney, I will give a voice to the voiceless as your next senator, and I will fight day and night to make our communities safer and our families stronger.”
Under 18 U.S. Code § 2251, the maximum sentence for production of child pornograpy is 30 years for first-time offenses and 50 years for individuals with two previous offenses. Eldridge would increase the maximum sentence allowable to life in prison for all production of child pornography offenses. The offense of production of child pornography involves hands on abuse and the recording of such abuse.