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March 8, 2007

When federal sentencing is more sensible

Especially in non-violent drug cases, I alway figure federal sentencing terms are much harsher and less balanced than state terms.  But this news report on the sentencing federal child porn prosecution highlights one setting in which federal law, though tough, can be more sensible than some state sentencing. 

The news article discusses a South Dakota high school teacher who received a (within-guideline) sentence of just over six years in federal prison for buying and storing a large and disgusting archive of child porn on his computer.  This criminal activity sounds very similar to the crimes of Morton Berger, but Berger received a sentence of 200 years in state prison under Arizona state law (basics here, commentary here and here).

Not only does federal sentencing law seem more rational in this setting, but this report on a federal sentencing in Florida highlights that federal law can and will bring the hammer down on producers of child porn:

A federal judge has sentenced a 34-year-old Glades County man to 50 years in prison for videotaping sex acts with his adopted son and sending the images via the Internet.  U.S. District Judge John Steele exceeded the recommended guidelines in sentencing the man this week.  Steele said it was the worst child pornography case he has seen.... Steele said he imposed the long sentence partially because the images sent out on the Internet can't be retrieved.

March 8, 2007 at 07:05 AM | Permalink


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Good for Judge Steele. Although some posters, given their pooh poohing of the harm caused by the fact that the kiddie porn is irretrievable will disagree. As I have mentioned before here, some of the arguments in favor of being nice to criminals are simply astounding, one of which is the idea that future viewing of kiddie porn by onanistic sickos is not harmful to the victims. One has to wonder about the mindset of such people.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 8, 2007 7:53:41 AM

Does "more sensible," as used here, mean anything other than "shorter"? 6 1/2 years is a joke.

Posted by: | Mar 8, 2007 8:50:41 AM

Sickos viewing kiddie porn is better than sickos abusing kids. And there is no victim to the viewing of a picture.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 8, 2007 10:16:11 AM

Anon, that's BS. The fact is that some kid has his victimization videotaped gets to wonder for the rest of his life about who is viewing his or her victimization.

Currently, there is some controversy over x-ray machines in airports that basically strip search a person. Would you be arguing that if someone saved the image and showed his buddies that there would be no harm to the person being x-rayed? Or, let's do another hypo, say it was your kid who got photographed, wouldn't it be a lot better for him or her if his or her pictures were not all over the internet? A necessary corollary to your statement that there is no victim to the viewing of a picture is that there is equal suffering to the victim if his victimization is kept between him and the victimizer or is shown to the world. And I don't think anyone can make that argument with a straight face.

I take your first point as being that there is a substitution of porn for actual molestation. I don't think that the research bears that out. In fact, I believe that it's the opposite, i.e., that kiddie porn excites the desire and reduces inhibitions.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 8, 2007 10:29:00 AM

To the extent I can, I take back my initial comment.

I missed the part about how the South Dakota guy didn't actually make the videos, and misinterpreted the post after that.

I agree that the producers of child porn are more harmful than the buyers, and that the differential between the South Dakota case and the Florida case (6.5 years for buying and 50 years for producing) is sensible.

And yes, good for Judge Steele.

Posted by: 8:50:41 anonymous | Mar 8, 2007 10:44:55 AM

Both sentences are still way too long ...way too long. And I think that these two cases miss the biggest point of alot of peoples ambivalence about all of these mandatory minimum s ...every case is different and thats why we have a judge whose job after the verdict is read is to weigh the circumstances of each individual case and decide what is as fair as possible. But all of that aside te FBI is doing everything in it's power to bring about the next generation of criminals with the methods they are employing to set people up to fail. People who would not be out looking for CP they are emailing spam to with links in their messages promising to show a 14 yr old girl with an older guy ...and as soon as the person clicks on it ...even if it's inadvertant or what have you under te FBI's reading of federal law you are now guilty of attempted possession of CP ...5-10 yrs of your life please... There are three states in the US where viewing CP isn't even a crime under current state laws...but Morton Berger the award winning teacher and his 20 images gets sent to prison for 200 years?>? There are people who are capable of learning very quickly from a mistake that has been made ...guys like Morton Berger who had no criminal record at all in almost 50 years. There are others who will never learn and society benefits from having them serve long stretches ...mandatory minimums treats everyone the same (within their state) and the truth of the matter is ..all people aren't the same ...I was pulled over in college ...gave the cop my brothers name ...within minutes he had me figured out and in the back of his car ...I spent 6 very uncomfortable hours that night with my freedom stripped away from me and from that moment on I knew I did not want to ever go back to jail for any reason. I made a mistake and 6 hrs in jail cured me ...I would hazard to guess that Morton Berger after now being incarcerated for 2-3 years by now and for all of those 2-3 years thinking that he would never leave its walls ...never nap on his couch or make love to his wife again or see his kids and grandkids grow old...thats got to be the worst feeling a man wo has lived such a good and forthright life in almost every other way than this yet it is this isolated episode of poor judgment that will define his entire life...Morton Berger has already served more that enough time to 'get it" and if released tomorrow there is very little doubt in my mind that we would not see him in trouble again ever... Otherwise well meaning people showing us a text book case of man's inhumanity to man ...such a waste!! such a ridiculous ruling

Posted by: | May 25, 2008 3:16:32 AM

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