While his alleged tormentors proceed through the legal system in Indiana County, in Harrisburg a bill meant to strengthen protections for Cody Overdorff and others with physical and intellectual disabilities came one step closer to becoming law.
House Bill 2056, also known as Cody’s Law, was approved on a 167-35 vote by the full state House on Wednesday.
“I believe individuals who target vulnerable and helpless victims pose a significant threat to our society and should be subject to harsher penalties under the law,” said state Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, the bill’s primary sponsor.
Struzzi has 12 Republicans and seven Democrats as co-sponsors, but before the full House all 35 no votes came from the Democratic caucus. All area House members cast yes votes.
Authorities said Overdorff, who lives with Williams syndrome, was attacked without provocation on Aug. 20 during an incident on the Hoodlebug Trail near Floodway Park in Homer City.
Four people were charged with misdemeanors in the incident, due to a determined lack of serious bodily injury.
Overdorff’s physical injuries were limited to red marks and bruises that didn’t necessitate medical treatment.
However, he also suffered mental scars because he lives with a behavioral and developmental disability that leaves him with cardiac problems and personality traits marked by friendliness and an unguarded trust of others.
Under HB 2056, however, anyone who intentionally causes bodily injury to a person with a physical or intellectual disability could be charged with aggravated assault, a felony of the second degree, regardless of the extent of that bodily injury.
All four charged in the incident since have pleaded guilty to various charges, for which two have been sentenced and two others are scheduled for sentencing early in June.
HB 2056 now moves to the Senate, which is in recess until June 1.
“I thank the House for their support of this critically important legislation,” Struzzi said. “I look forward to working with the Senate and the governor to get it signed into law.”