MacDonell Testifies before committee

State Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy) testified with the Hayes family during the Families, Children, and Seniors Committee at the House Office Building on June 20, 2023.

LANSING, Mich, June 21, 2023 — State Rep. Sharon MacDonell (D-Troy) testified in the Families, Children, and Seniors Committee yesterday in support of closing an existing loophole in state law to protect vulnerable adults from being sexually exploited online. Her legislation would institute a criminal penalty to hold sexual predators accountable and discourage repeat offenses.

House Bills 4320 and 4387, also known as the “Justice for Allie” bill package, is named after Allie Hayes, a young woman with Down Syndrome who was taken advantage of by an online predator. In 2017, a stranger contacted Allie online and manipulated her into sending him explicit photos of herself. When Allie’s parents, Dawn and Mark Hayes, attempted to press charges, they discovered that this action was not explicitly illegal.

Since then, the Hayes family has sought to fill this glaring loophole in Michigan’s criminal code. They seek not only to deliver justice for Allie, but to prevent other vulnerable adults from being exploited in this way again.

“What happened to Allie was heinous. We must do something to protect vulnerable adults from being taken advantage of,” MacDonell said. “This legislation will do that. While previous versions of this bill did not advance out of committee, they always earned broad bipartisan support in the legislature when introduced. I am confident that this version of Justice for Allie will report out of committee, be approved by the legislature and be signed into law.”

This bill is part of an expansive, multi-year effort led by Democratic women to hold abusers accountable, prevent exploitation and protect survivors. The House passed state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky’s (D-Livonia) reintroduced bill to close Michigan’s martial rape loophole in April. State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township) recently reintroduced for the fourth time legislation to establish a Survivors’ Bill of Rights to extend Michigan’s statute of limitations for prosecuting sex crimes and provide survivors with greater support throughout the process. A package of bills aiming to prevent sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment has been introduced every session since 2018 and is finally expected to pass, now that Democrats lead every branch of state government.