House Committee Begins Hearings on Braden’s Law

COLUMBUS- The House Criminal Justice Committee today began hearings on House Bill 531, known as Braden’s Law, announced bill sponsors State Representatives Beth Lear (R-Galena) and Brian Lorenz (R-Powell). Braden’s Law would make sextortion a crime in Ohio.

On October 17, 2021, Olentangy High School student, Braden Markus, was contacted by an individual on social media who sent him lewd pictures while pretending to be a 15-year-old girl. The “girl” requested Braden send inappropriate photos in exchange. After Braden complied with the initial request, the perpetrator demanded $1,800 and threatened to release the photo on social media if Braden did not send the money.

“It only took 27 minutes from the initiation of the crime to push Braden Markus to take his own life,” said Lear. “As an Olentangy graduate myself, this tragedy hits home. We need Braden’s Law in Ohio to protect our children and combat sextortion.”

The offense of sextortion applies to anyone who threatens to release, exhibit, or distribute private images of another for financial gain. The penalty for this crime begins as a third-degree felony. If the person being extorted is a minor, elderly, or disabled, the penalty rises to first-degree felony. This includes compelling individuals to perform acts against their will, inducing them to commit offenses, obtaining additional private images, or obtaining anything of value through coercion.

Additionally, Braden’s Law will require the courts to conduct an expedited review of a request for digital access to a device made by a parent or guardian of a deceased minor. It also absolves a cell phone carrier of liability, allowing them prompt cooperation with families of victims.

“The Markus family had to wait 10 months to get access to Braden’s phone, which held important information about the crime and his death,” said Lorenz. “This bill is a solid piece of legislation that was carefully created with the help of our Delaware County Prosecutor and Sheriff.”

Lear noted Braden’s Law has support from the prosecutors, Ohio’s Attorney General, and the Lieutenant Governor, who specifically requested the committee expedite the bill.

Braden’s Law will continue to have hearings in the House Criminal Justice Committee.

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