Brian Laundrie protests inspire Florida bill that would make demonstrations outside homes illegal
NORTH PORT, Fla. - Protests at the house where the parents of murder victim Gabby Petito's fiancé lived and by anti-maskers at the home of a school board member were cited before a Florida Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Monday to make such disturbances illegal.
The bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee would make protesting outside a residence a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Orange County sheriff's Lt. Mike Crabb spoke in favor of the bill, citing days of protests outside the home of Brian Laundrie's parents. At the time, Laundrie was missing and suspected of killing Petito while on a cross-country trip. Authorities later found his body and a note confessing to the killing.
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"Brian Laundrie, the murderer from southwest Florida, had days and days of protests at ... his parents' house. He's not an elected official, his parents weren't elected officials either, but that wasn't right either."
Steven Bertolino, the attorney for the Laundrie family, said Brian's parents had protesters outside their house for weeks -- including when they learned their son was dead.
"They're extremely upset, and for some unknown reason, there are still people outside of their home, yelling and screaming and causing a ruckus, which any parent grieving the loss of a child should not have to deal with," Bertolino said at the time.
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After Brian Laundrie's remains were found and the search for him was over, the family attorney said protesters still remained outside his parents' home non-stop.
"This protesting. This witch hunt. This mob-style crucifixion of Chris and Roberta is just wrong," Bertolino said back in October. "Enough is enough."
Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley said protests at public places or at an elected official's office is one thing, but people's homes and families should be off-limits — elected official or not.
"Is there nothing sacred?" he said. "This thing of personally attacking people and their families to terrorize them, I just don't want that happening to anyone."
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Republican Sen. Keith Perry cited Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins as an example of someone who was harassed at her home by protesters.
"The protesters used vile language, argued with her neighbors and even coughed in her face," Perry said. "This is one example of many."
Perry said people deserve the right of privacy, safety and peace while in their homes.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis' communications office didn't immediately respond to an email asking if he supports the bill.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.