HARRISONBURG, Va.--- The friends of a 19-year-old killed at an apartment complex last year, are circulating a petition to change Virginia law. The petition asks for harsher penalties for people charged with accessory after the fact of murder.
Alcinda Brubaker, a friend of Ben Graessle, organized an event to collect signatures on Court Square on Saturday.
"We need to get laws passed so we don't have issues like this in the future. There are so many issues with racism, gang, drugs and alcohol abuse and if we didn't have things like this, Ben would have never passed away," said Brubaker.
Currently under Virginia law, accessory after the fact of murder is considered a misdemeanor. Givi Dudunia faced that charge in Graessle's case. On December 23, he drove home Dallas Chaplin, the man who pleaded guilty in court to killing Graessle. Dudunia currently serves a year behind bars.
Graessle's friends and family ask the General Assembly through the petition to make this charge a felony and that the revised law be named " Ben's Law." Family friend Scott Bragg who signed the petition said Dudunia deserved a greater punishment.
"I would absolutely agree that it should be a felony offense that carried a stiffer and more harsher sentence penalty than what he did receive," said Bragg.
He said he hopes the signatures can make their plea heard in Richmond.
"A way to make a difference is to come to the front, you know, have a say, put our name on the line for what we stand for," said Bragg.
According to Bragg, the petition can also make a difference for future cases.
"If something like this is to happen again, a harsher penalty would be better for the family," said Bragg.
Brubaker expects to collect as many signatures as possible by Dec, 23, the one year anniversary of Graessle's death. Along with the family, she will go to the General Assembly in January to present the petition. Brubaker is currently working to start a foundation to help fight gangs.
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