Arizona ‘Predator Loophole’ Bill Would Weaken Silence Pacts

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By Brenna Goth

Sexual predators in Arizona would have a harder time buying the silence of victims via nondisclosure pacts, under a Republican bill that sailed through the state’s House.

Under H.B. 2020, which passed 59-0, nondisclosure agreements wouldn’t be enforced when a person is responding to questions from peace officers or prosecutors. Signers would also be allowed to make statements in criminal proceedings they didn’t initiate. But the measure doesn’t lift nondisclosure requirements entirely.

The bill would also outlaw the use of taxpayer dollars for nondisclosure agreements related to sexual assault or harassment allegations against a public official.

The legislation is an attempt to close the “predator loophole” that buys the silence of victims, bill sponsor Rep. Maria Syms (R) said during committee hearings earlier this month. The measure passed Feb. 15.

The measure comes as a response to recent high-profile allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against powerful men such as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar. Some accusers have cited nondisclosure agreements as a limit on what alleged victims can share in court and with the public.

The action also comes in the wake of charges against a member of Arizona’s House. Rep. Don Shooter (R) was ousted after an investigation corroborated accounts of sexual misconduct.

Bill Heading for Senate, Governor Noncommittal

The bill now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said the governor doesn’t comment on pending legislation and will review the measure if and when it reaches his desk.

Ducey supported the recent exit of Shooter, saying in a statement that “there is no room for this behavior anywhere.”

Pacts Not Voided

The bill prevents people from signing an agreement and then launching their own charges to void it, Syms said at the hearing.

“It would be responsive rather than initiated,” she said.

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