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Conference Committee To Take Up N.C. Terrorism Bill

Posted November 14, 2001

— A conference committee will work out different versions of a bill pushed by Gov. Mike Easley to toughen punishments for terrorist acts, making some deserving of the death penalty.

The state House unanimously rejected the Senate version of the bill, which would increase sentences for people who use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or pretend to do so. The House approved a version earlier.

Rep. Phil Baddour, the bill sponsor, said he wanted to change the bill to incorporate definitions of biological or chemical agents found in other new legislation. The sponsor of the Senate version is ready to make the changes.

"We don't see anything in controversy that ought to keep us from approving the bill quickly," said Baddour, D-Wayne.

Under the bill, a terrorist would automatically face a potential death sentence if the weapon killed someone by making it a first-degree murder offense.

A person convicted of causing injury by releasing a chemical or biological weapon also could be sentenced to life in prison.

The release of such a weapon with the intent to injure could lead to a sentence of 20 years to life. Hoaxes and false reports of such attacks would be punishable by five to 15 years in prison.

The legislation is one of two security-related bill lobbied for by Easley in recent weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks. Another bill signed into law last week gives Easley up to $32 million over the next 1-1/2 years for statewide security efforts.

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