Lawmakers Considering "Ben's Law" in General Assembly


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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Lawmakers are now considering "Ben's Law," after Ben Graessle was shot and killed outside an apartment complex in Harrisonburg, in December 2012.

The new law will push for harsher sentences for accomplices to murder.

Delegate Ben Cline, who oversees parts of the valley, said he expects the bill to be reviewed by a subcommittee during the next two weeks.

Graessle's case is not the only one here in the Valley. There has only been a handful of cases where someone assisted in helping, after a murder took place.

Cline said there are a number of reasons for this. First, not many people are charged with capital offenses in the first place.

Also, many times there is not enough evidence; however, Cline said the number of cases is not as important as treating the crime seriously.

He said, many of the cases we have seen in our area had someone assisting in the planning before the murder, which is a felony.

But, assisting after the fact is just a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.

Marsha Garst, the Commonwealth Attorney in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, said he has never seen such an extreme case in our area.

"This is the first time as an accessory after the fact I've had someone so involved that they've hid a murder weapon, as well as helped the murder escape, that the most we could get is a misdemeanor. It is very frustrating as a prosecutor. So, hopefully this will right what I believe is a wrong in the law," said Garst.

Cline said the bill have have impacts in other ways, as well. He hopes it will be a deterrent to make sure others will be more reluctant to help the murderer, in the future. And, provide greater leverage for law enforcement to reduce the number of crimes.


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