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Senate backs tougher sentences for flash-mob attackers

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SPRINGFIELD-Anyone caught using social media to trigger a flash-mob attack would face a lengthier prison term under bi-partisan legislation that passed the Illinois Senate Wednesday.

The proposal, whose chief Senate sponsor was Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), cleared the legislative chamber by a 52-0 vote, with one member voting present. The measure now moves to the House.

"I represent North Michigan Avenue and lot of tourist areas heavily impacted by this, but I also represent other areas of the city impacted by this," Raoul said. "In fact blocks away from my home, there was an incident where a young lady was shot when gang members were brought together" through social media.

For the past two years, North Michigan Avenue and sections of River North have been hit by mob attacks, including a late March outbreak of wildings on North Michigan Avenue orchestrated on Facebook and Twitter that involved 400 young people and led to the arrests of 25 juveniles and three adults.

Under Raoul's legislation, Senate Bill 1005, anyone using social media or text-messaging and convicted of engaging in mob action, a class 4 felony, could see their prison sentences extended from one to three years to three to six years.

"If we have a perception it's unsafe to walk on the Magnificent Mile or anywhere else in the state of Illinois without being accosted by teenagers who know how to use social media to gather groups of people together....just to have fun, we have a problem," said state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), a co-sponsor of the bill. "I think it's important to send a message you cannot use social media to incite, for lack of a better term, mob action."

Raoul said his legislation does not target non-violent social protests.

"That's certainly not the intent," he said.

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