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State

Bill would make assaulting rail crew members a federal offense

On the 1-year anniversary of the shooting of an Amtrak conductor in Naperville, Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois on Wednesday introduced a bipartisan bill that would make assault or intimidation of passenger rail crew members a federal offense, which could lead to tougher penalties.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven, a North Dakota Republican, would provide the same federal protections to passenger rail engineers, conductors and other on-board service personnel as are provided to airline crew members, said a news release from Duckworth’s office. Currently, any assault against a rail crew member is handled under the laws of the local jurisdiction where the crime is committed.

The bill, called the Passenger Rail Crew Protection Parity Act, is being introduced 2 year after the shooting of Michael Case at the Naperville train station.

Case, who suffered extensive internal injuries and spent 10 weeks in the hospital, was one of 73 victims of recorded assaults on Amtrak crew members since 2015, Duckworth’s office said.

The man who shot Case, Edward Klein, 80, formerly of West Allis, Wisconsin, was charged with attempted murder but found to be unfit for trial after exhibiting signs of dementia and committed to a private facility in suburban Milwaukee. Case, 46, has said that he and his family supported the way the incident was resolved.

Having assaults adjudicated under federal law would mean that penalties would be tougher and more consistent across county and state lines, according to Duckworth’s office.

“No one in America should experience what Amtrak conductor Michael Case endured while just doing his job,” Duckworth said in the news release. She is a member of the Senate committee on commerce, science and transportation.

– Tribune News Service

mwisniewski@chicagotribune.com

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©2018 the Chicago Tribune

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