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Sen. Jeff Flake reintroduces bill to protect child sexual assault victims

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PHOENIX — With his time in office nearing an end, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) reintroduced a bill Monday that would prevent accused child molesters from directly questioning their alleged victims during trial.

Under provisions of the bill, defendants in sexual assault cases acting as their own attorneys would not be allowed to cross-examine victims younger than 18.

Instead, court-supervised attorneys would have to conduct defense questioning of victims in such cases.

“This bill protects child victims of sexual assault from having to endure any further trauma from their assailants,” Flake said in a press release.

“I urge the Senate to take swift action and protect these victims.”

The bill provides an exception if “the court finds that it is necessitated by exceptional circumstances to protect the constitutional rights of the defendant.”

Flake initially introduced the bill in December 2016, but it never made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It was a response to the child molestation trial of Chris Simcox, former leader of the Minuteman border militia in Arizona.

Simcox wanted to directly question two girls younger than 10 he was accused of molesting.

The case was delayed for more than year while the issue was addressed in court, and Simcox eventually agreed to let advisory counsel cross-examine the girls.

In June 2016, he was found guilty on two counts of child molestation and one count of furnishing pornography to a minor. He was sentenced to 19½ years in prison.

Flake, who didn’t run for re-election, will be replaced by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema when the 116th Congress convenes next month.

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