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December 22, 2005

Is a picture worth 1000 more days in federal prison?

This interesting article highlights the perverted logic of the federal sentencing guidelines by detailing that, under the guidelines, a pervert who looks at pictures of children having sex can face a lot more prison time than a pervert who has sex with children:

A Daphne man pleaded guilty in Mobile's federal court Wednesday to driving to Florida to have sex with someone he thought was a 15-year-old girl.  Another Daphne man pleaded guilty to possessing and receiving child pornography in an unrelated case.  When both are sentenced in March, the child pornography defendant faces significantly more prison time — perhaps six times as much — under advisory sentencing guidelines.

"It's one of the strange things about the child pornography guidelines," said Assistant Federal Defender Lyn Hillman, who represents Lonnie Ray Hodnett.  "I've had defendants on child porn charges (for whom) the guidelines would have ended up being lower if they had actually molested a child."...

UPDATE:  In the comments and elsewhere, a number of folks have sensibly highlighted that the article referenced above is comparing apples and oranges in terms of the severity of the two offenses discussed.  And, to avoid any misleading implications, I should point out that the federal guidelines in most cases will recommend longer sentences for offenders who have sex with children than for those who look at pictures of children having sex.  Nevertheless, as the quote by the federal defender suggests, there are some instances in which looking at the wrong kind of pictures can get you as much or more federal time than engaging in the wrong kind of sex.

Also, for anyone interested in more perspectives on these important topics, consider this article about a federal sentencing for an on-line sexual solicitation and this article about a state sentencing of a coach having sex with an underage team member.

December 22, 2005 at 11:57 AM | Permalink


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I'm not going to try and defend the Guidelines (I'd get fired!), but it's important to note that the interstate travel case the article discusses does not include an actual child victim. The person on the other end was an adult (not a cop, just a citizen-vigilante). Had there been an actual victim and had the defendant done something to a child, his sentence would be much greater. Our office had one case involving a guy who travelled interstate and molested one child and ended up with 30 years in federal court (on top of state time). That doesn't make the porn time justified, but maybe puts it in better perspective.

Posted by: JDB | Dec 22, 2005 4:51:16 PM

Er- I don't see a problem here. No child was molested in the first case. But a child was molested in the second case, in fact many children were.

Posted by: Jacob | Dec 22, 2005 10:31:30 PM


Don't the facts of the case suggest a different situation than just "looking at pictures of children"? According to the story, here is what the man did:

The Missouri man acknowledged making a video of himself having oral sex with his own 6-year-old daughter and sending it to Hodnett, according to the complaint. That man, whose name the Mobile Register has withheld in order to protect the girl's identity, told investigators that he visited Hodnett in Daphne five or six times between 2003 and October 2004.

The affidavit states that the man brought his minor children on these visits. After initially telling investigators that Hodnett did not have sexual contact with the children, the man said Hodnett did perform oral sex on the 6-year-old girl during the October 2004 visit.

Although Hodnett has no apparent prior criminal record, he admitted to investigators a history of child molestation dating back to his years as a soldier during the Vietnam War, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Posted by: Orin S. Kerr | Dec 22, 2005 10:47:32 PM


As Orin suggests, perhaps you ought to consider full factual disclosure before you rant and rave. Sometimes I get the impression that non-reporting probation is the only sentence you would support for any violation of the criminal law. Your "sentencing outrage" bleeds all over your blog. I really don't care if guidelines exist or not, but I do know that sentencing judges need to protect us (you, me, our children, etc...) from those who would prey upon us. For child predators, since it is quite possibly nothing more or less than a sexual preference, I personally believe life without parole is a "reasonable" sentence in ALL cases excluding the extraordinary circumstance where there may be some sort of "explanation."

Posted by: RLS | Dec 22, 2005 11:29:43 PM

Since it appears as though this post has struck a nerve, please note that all I said in my lead-in to the article quote is that "under the guidelines, a pervert who looks at pictures of children having sex CAN FACE a lot more prison time than a pervert who has sex with children." I really do not think this lead-in --- which is supported by the quote from the federal defender --- amounts to a "rant and rave."

This possible disparity in sentences may have been justified in the specific cases discussed in the article, but it was the broader point about how child porn and child molestation are treated under the guidelines that is my chief concern.

As for a "rant and rave," RLS, are you really suggesting that every single person who downloads kiddie porn from the internet ought to be sentenced to life without parole except in extraordinary circumstances?

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 23, 2005 12:33:05 AM

Probably not unless his prior criminal history justified it; but I'd support a very harsh sentence, perhaps a mandatory sentence of 10 years, to do two (3553(a)) things: (1) protect the public; (2) deter others. US v. Menyweather shows we simply cannot trust judges to act reasonably, so I believe Congress needs to establish a sentencing regime that sets STATUTORY minimums for every federal felony. Defendants can then work their way down.

Posted by: RLS | Dec 23, 2005 9:16:30 AM

dell 4e369 battery

Posted by: | Oct 14, 2008 9:56:26 PM

I know Hodnett and know he is the lowest form of scum on this earth and should never see the light of day as a free man again!!!! May God have mercy on his soul!

Posted by: Gary Hollis | Sep 15, 2016 1:50:00 AM

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