Trio of bills confront ‘knockout game’ assaults

TRENTON – Lawmakers want to deliver a KO to the so-called “knockout game,’’ in which an assailant tries to knock a victim out with one punch or kick.

Three bills have been introduced in the Assembly this week, all of which would increase penalties for such a crime.

Republicans Jon Bramnick and Ron Dancer introduced A4549.

Another bill, A4558, has bipartisan backing: Republicans John DiMaio and Anthony Bucco with Democrat Craig Coughlin.

And a third bill, A4563, was sponsored by Democrats Joe Cryan and Gordon Johnson.

The first two bills clarify that the “knockout game’’ is a third-degree crime. That is normally punishable by a term of imprisonment of three to five years, a fine of up to $15,000, or both.

The Bramnick/Dancer bill specifies that a person who committed a “knockout game” assault would be subject to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one-third to one-half of the three- to five-year sentence imposed, during which time the person would not be eligible for parole.

The second bill would mandate that a juvenile who is 14 years of age or older at the time of committing a “knockout game” assault could, upon motion by a prosecutor and ruling by a court, be tried in criminal court and subject to the same penalties as an adult offender.

It also would make a person who committed such an assault while knowingly involved in criminal street gang activity guilty of second-degree gang criminality, which carries a jail term of five to 10 years, and a fine of up to $150,000, or both.

The third bill would make offenders guilty of a second-degree aggravated assault, entailing the jail time and fines listed under the gang activity provision.

All of the proposals attempt to deal with the viciousness of such recent attacks.

As the DeMaio/Coughlin/Bucco bill points out, a homeless man in Hoboken died as a result of injuries sustained from a September “knockout game” assault involving three teenage boys.  

Trio of bills confront ‘knockout game’ assaults