A New Jersey father, whose daughter was killed nearly two years ago by a neighborhood teenager, is still campaigning to ensure parents of violent minors are held responsible for their child's crimes.
“If you're going to raise a murderer, you're going to take responsibility for it,” Kathleen Bonczyk told the South Jersey Times last year, shortly after Justin Robinson was sentenced.
Robinson, 16, had pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in the choking death of 12-year-old Clayton, New Jersey, resident Autumn Pasquale. Police said Robinson killed the girl so he could take her new BMX bicycle.
Bonzyck is the attorney of Autumn’s father, Anthony Pasquale.
He recently told Yahoo News he realized after listening to courtroom statements made by Robinson’s mother that she, too, needed to be held responsible for her son’s actions.
At the teen’s sentencing hearing on Sept. 12, 2013, Anita Robinson told the judge that her son suffered from physical deformities and emotional problems. His attorney said many of those problems stemmed from witnessing years of abuse in his home.
“My Justin is not a monster,” Anita Robinson said. “He is now a 16-year-old boy who was born with a physical deformity and who is emotionally and developmentally disabled. He is a respectful, loving child with a sense of humor and we love him.”
“There was significant history as outlined in (Justin’s psychiatric report) of domestic violence in his household when he was young,” the boy’s attorney told the judge. “Justin also suffered abuse, physical abuse, by his father. This was learned behavior, Your Honor. Justin saw his father strangle his mother on more than one occasion. Justin has inappropriate responses to stressors as a result of his disabilities.”
“My light bulb went off so fast when I heard that,” Pasquale said. “My lawyer was next to me and I said, ‘We have to do something about that.’ If it was a learned behavior, then teach a different behavior. If you taught your son to kill, then you need to be punished, too.”
Justin Robinson was sentenced to 17 years behind bars after admitting to the murder. He will be 30 years old before he is eligible for parole.
Bonczyk is seeking a civil suit against Anita Robinson on Pasquale’s behalf.
But now, a year after the sentencing, Pasquale has launched a Change.org campaign to urge New Jersey legislators to pass “Autumn’s Law.”
The law, if passed, “would make abusive and/or neglectful parents/guardians who have custody of their children criminally responsible for murders committed by their minor children, when they know or should have known the propensity toward violence existed,” according to the online petition site.
Such parents are a “contributing factor to the loss of life and lifelong devastation inflicted on their victims and their victims’ families,” Pasquale argues. “As such, they should be held criminally responsible.”
The petition currently has about 8,000 signatures, well short of its goal of 20,000.