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Grooming bill inspired by Amati investigation signed into law

Published: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 4:57 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Aug. 15, 2014 11:56 p.m. CST

A law inspired by the grooming allegations made against Woodstock Police Sgt. Chip Amati was signed into law Friday by Gov. Pat Quinn.

State Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, introduced the legislation in February after allegations against Amati first surfaced. Amati reportedly text messaged his ex-girlfriend’s 12-year-old daughter for “sexy pictures” and was subsequently suspended for 30 days without pay by the department.

The lack of criminal charges, Franks said, was a result of a weak law that needed to be strengthened. Frank’s law increases the penalty for grooming from a Class 4 felony to a Class 3 felony when the victim is age 14 or older and a Class 2 felony when victims are younger than 14 years old.

His legislation also expands the definition of grooming from a person knowingly using electronic forms of communication to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a minor to commit a sex offense to include a person knowingly distributing pornographic images of children.

Amati was never suspected of attempting to distribute any images.

“This law sends a message to every predator that we will not stand idly by while they prey upon our children,” Franks said. “It also says to prosecutors that the community believes any predatory actions merit prosecution and severe punishment.”

The decision from the McHenry County State’s Attorney to not pursue criminal charges in the case angered many Woodstock residents, but Franks said it was a flawed law and not poor prosecutorial discretion that led to the decision.

Franks drafted the legislation with the assistance of McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke.

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