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Torrington case prompts proposal to make it illegal to have sexual contact with animals in CT

Lisa Backus | CT INSIDER

Nov. 16, 2022

An unusual Torrington case of alleged abuse involving a dog has prompted the state Sentencing Commission to recommend a law change making it illegal to have sexual contact with an animal or dead human body.

The proposal stemmed from the case of Robert Hoetzel, a former Torrington resident, who was charged in 2019 with two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in connection with incidents involving a dog and second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a child in connection with incidents involving a girl while she was 14 and 15 in 2018, according to court records.

Hoetzel's attorney successfully argued in 2020 that Connecticut law defines sexual contact as contact with a human, leading Litchfield Superior Court Judge John Danaher to dismiss the charges that pertained to the dog. Hoetzel pleaded guilty in February 2020 to second-degree sexual assault for the incidents involving the girl and was sentenced to two years in prison, court records indicate.

The case and the loophole in the state statute caught the attention of former Chief State's Attorney Richard Colangelo, who was seeking a change in the law as it pertained to sexual contact with animals and dead human bodies in 2020 just as the pandemic shut down the legislature for that year's session. But the proposal didn't gain traction again until it was considered by the commission's subcommittee on animal cruelty which was looking at a number of proposals regarding animals, commission members said.

Based on the subcommittee's work, the entire commission unanimously approved Wednesday a proposal recommending changing the state's statute on fourth-degree sexual assault to include two separate sections making sexual contact with an animal or a dead human body illegal. The proposal also defines fourth-degree sexual assault to include sexual contact with an animal or sexual contact with a dead human body, subcommittee member Judge Vernon Oliver said.

The proposal came from a "failed prosecution," according to Oliver, who presented information on the change to the entire commission.

"This would resolve any potential inconsistencies," Oliver said. State statutes already make it illegal to have sexual contact with an animal or dead human body. However, the sections of the law that refer to what constitutes illegal sexual contact only include crimes against people and not animals or dead human bodies, according to a memo issued to the commission by subcommittee member staff. The proposal had to receive the approval of the entire commission before it can be sent to the legislature during the General Assembly session due to start in January. The proposed law would have to be vetted and approved most likely by the Judiciary Committee before it can be presented to the House and the Senate for a vote.

Written By Lisa Backus

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