AUSTIN (KFDX/KJTL) — A bill filed in the Texas Senate in honor of Nocona’s Caleb Diehl, who was reported missing in April 2015, continues to gain momentum after being heard by the Texas Senate Committee of Criminal Justice on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
Texas State Senator Drew Springer (SD-30) filed SB 129, also known as Caleb’s Law, in January 2023, to be a part of the 88th Texas Legislature. On Tuesday, Sen. Springer presented the bill during a hearing of the Texas Senate Committee of Criminal Justice.
If signed into law, the bill would update the criminal code regarding child pornography and allow for first-time offenders to be prosecuted based on the number of images they’re discovered to be in possession of.
“Unfortunately, our child pornography laws have not been updated since 1989,” Sen. Springer said. “Back then, people used to have snapshots of disgusting vulgar things that they’d done to kids. Nowadays, it’s on the internet. There’s thousands and thousands of images.”
Sen. Springer was joined by Paige Williams, former 97th District Attorney and current Assistant District Attorney in Dallas County, and Judy Price, current Assistant District Attorney for the 97th Judicial District, who both have played a major role in the development of Caleb’s Law.
“As a prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the need for the changes that Senate Bill 129 provides,” Price said to the committee.
Price argued the passing of Caleb’s Law would update and strengthen current child pornography laws in Texas to protect vulnerable child victims. She said it would also bring Texas law up-to-date with technology and the access it creates for online predators.
“We’re no longer prosecuting an individual with a collection of photographs,” Price said. “We’re prosecuting individuals with terabytes of images.”
Price concluded by asking the committee to strongly support Caleb’s Law, and that doing so would be “taking a stand against pedophiles everywhere.”
Tammy Diehl, Caleb’s mother, was also present during Tuesday’s hearing and testified following the testimonies of Williams and Price. Following her testimony, Committee Chair Sen. John Whitmire told Diehl her courage in coming forward and testifying on behalf of Caleb’s Law would have an impact on the legislation.
Following testimony, Price received a round of applause from several members of the committee. Sen. Paul Bettencourt went as far as to say he was “mad enough to rocket this bill to the moon” following the testimony of Williams, Price, and Diehl.
In all, Sen. Whitmire said around 50 witnesses signed letters of support of Caleb’s Law, which were later read out loud for the record and included several law enforcement officials and District Attorneys from all across Texas.
The bill is named after Caleb Diehl, a boy from Nocona who was reported missing in April 2015. The investigation eventually lead them to bring charges of sexually exploiting a child against longtime Nocona resident Ricky Dale Howard. Though Howard is currently serving a 30-year sentence, Diehl is currently still missing.
Senator Springer told Digital Producer and Reporter Dylan Jimenez in January that he expects a companion bill to be filed in the house and said whichever bill advances first, the plan is to run with that bill till it gets to Governor Abbott’s desk.
The text of SB 129 can be found in its entirety below: