Proposed law change would expand aid for crime victims, including of Dayton mass shooting

A bill introduced in the Ohio Senate this month would expand access to Ohio’s victim compensation program after the Dayton Daily News found several victims of the Oregon District mass shooting were denied aid.

State Sen. Steve Huffman, R-Tipp City, is one of the sponsors of the bill, Senate Bill 36.

“As sponsor of this bill, my constituents and fellow Ohioans who were traumatically impacted by Dayton’s Oregon District shooting in 2019 weighs heavily on my heart and mind,” he said. “My hope is that this legislation will go a long way toward helping those victims and others recover from severe trauma.”

A similar bill passed the Ohio Senate last year, but didn’t get a vote in the House before the legislative session ended.

SB 36 would expand who is eligible for financial assistance under the victims compensation program, which is funded mostly by drivers license reinstatement fees and court costs paid by people accused of crimes.

Current program rules disqualify crime victims from getting help if they were convicted — or in some cases merely suspected — of a felony in the past 10 years.

This kept the family of Oregon District shooting victim Derrick Fudge of Springfield from getting help with funeral expenses. Fudge was convicted of drug trafficking in 2011 and sentenced to 90 days of home monitoring. He was one of nine people killed in the August 2019 shooting.

Fudge’s son Dion Green dedicated himself to helping crime victims after seeing his father killed in front of him. Green submitted testimony last year and again on Feb. 9 before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of the reforms.

“Through all of the trauma I have went through, I (received) a letter from the attorney general’s office stating that my father Derrick Fudge was not eligible for any assistance because of his past,” Green wrote in submitted testimony. “My father was nine years and six months since being in trouble. But who cares if he was one day out of prison, he did not ask to die, or any of the other precious lives.”

Green said this week he was disappointed the previous bill didn’t make it through, and was glad lawmakers were trying again.

SB 36 would decrease the lookback period from 10 years to five. It would also eliminate the rule disqualifying victims from aid if they were in possession of drugs when they were victimized.

The Dayton Daily News has reported on several people — including a woman shot in the Oregon District and another woman who was the victim of human trafficking — who were denied help because they had drugs in their system when they were victimized.

Nineteen applications from Oregon District shooting victims or their families were denied. Dayton Daily News investigations in recent years found the program routinely denies more requests for aid than it pays out.

Stephen Massey, director of the CitiLookout Trauma Recovery Center in Springfield, testified about recently having to tell two gunshot victims that they couldn’t get help covering their expenses because of felonies years prior.

“Delivering such a message is not only heartbreaking and unjust, but it also amounts to bad public safety policy,” he wrote in submitted testimony. “Why should those victimized by violence be denied support to recover, because of something that occurred years earlier for which they already paid their debt?”

The bill would also expand the definition of a victim to include a family member who was a witness to a crime or arrived at the crime scene in the immediate aftermath, or caretakers of dependent victims of sexual assault.

“No one should be denied help for reasons that are no fault of their own,” said bill co-sponsor Sen. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville. “This piece of legislation will have a significant impact on providing relief for victims and their families.”

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