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September 23, 2009

Still another noteworthy federal child porn downloading sentence

This local story, headlined "Teacher sentenced in child pornography case," provides yet another noteworthy example of the variation and uncertainty that surrounds federal child porn sentencing. Here are some unique parts of this sentencing story that drew my attention:

Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV, whose federal courtroom was awash in competing human tragedies, yesterday sentenced a former teacher of the year to 70 months in prison for possession of child pornography.

The case of Gregg Woodward, 46, formerly of Milford, confronted the judge with the feelings read by prosecutor Karin M. Bell of a young woman whose image was found on Mr. Woodward’s computer because she had been raped and photographed by her father when she was 10 and 11 years old: that she was being raped over and over again when she discovered that the pictures of her could be viewed forever by people like Mr. Woodward on their computers.

But defense lawyer Raymond A. O’Hara said that law enforcement investigated and found no evidence Mr. Woodward, a Foxboro High School teacher, had ever used public computers to view pornography, much less acted out his fantasies to abuse children. He said the law needs to make a distinction between voyeurs and predators.

But the case of the defendant, whose parents live in Millbury, became even more serious after he was incarcerated in Wyatt Detention facility in Rhode Island following his guilty plea. He was distributing to other inmates hand-drawn images depicting the rape and torture of minor children, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Bell. A search of his cell in the protective custody section of the jail in April also turned up a handwritten, illustrated 65-page document of stories and plays focusing on the rape and torture of minor girls by family members, Ms. Bell said.

Following that incident Judge Saylor allowed a motion by Mr. O’Hara to have Mr. Woodward hospitalized in a prison psychiatric facility because his client “feared he was no longer in control of his thoughts or actions” and suffered “auditory and visual hallucinations.” Mr. O’Hara said that his client had been cut off from medications and counseling following his March 31, 2008 arrest by the FBI....

The prosecutor, who recommended a sentence of 87 months in prison, said that in addition to the direct harm to the subjects of pornography, those who buy it create the demand that provides the incentive for people to produce it. She also objected to the defense of what Mr. Woodward did not do — abuse girls in person.

But Mr. O’Hara said there is something wrong with a justice system that sentences a man who lured an underage girl to Massachusetts to have torrid sex with him to less time — 60 month’s in prison as happened in federal court in Boston last year — than the government is seeking for Mr. Woodward, who is charged only with viewing pornography. Less than 20 years ago he said he had a case in which defendants who received pornography passed a lie detector test indicating they had never abused a child nor had a tendency to do so and “the case disappeared” because of the apparent policy of the U.S. Attorney’s office back then....

Judge Saylor said that he was torn by this “unusually difficult case” and other pornography cases. As a parent he is appalled by child pornography, but numerous of his fellow federal judges have testified that they feel the advisory guidelines for pornography are too severe. He discounted the increased sentence the guidelines call for merely for using a computer to view pornography and sentenced Mr. Woodward to less than the 78 to 97 months the guidelines otherwise would have called for.

Some related federal child porn prosecution and sentencing posts:

September 23, 2009 at 09:40 AM | Permalink

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Comments

If a person has to make drawings of sex acts with kids, in prison, and spread them around at the risk of being targeted, that lapses over into a mental illness of some kind, addiction or impulsivity or something.

Say, I have the same addiction but to pictures of car crashes. Say, the relatives and the victims of car crashes continue to be traumatized by pictures of the car crash posted on this site.

http://www.documentingreality.com/forum/

(Please, don't go there.)

Should I be held liable, go to jail, for my addiction to car crash pics? I did not cause the crash. I did not take the picture. I may have subscribed to a Mexican newspaper where crash pics are posted daily. My subscription funded the salary of the news photographer.

Does my collecting these encourage car crashes? Does my watching beheading videos from Al Qaeda promote beheadings? If the answer is no, if the entire population of Mexico City should not be arrested for funding the taking of crash photos, explain the above post.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 23, 2009 1:53:43 PM

Exactly. Agatha Christie wrote murder mysteries and millions of people read them, but neither she nor her readers were considered threats to kill anyone. The fact that you look at pictures or read books about a crime does not mean you are inclined to commit that crime.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Sep 23, 2009 3:17:41 PM

Many more children are molested for child porn purposes than cars are crashed for photographing. Car crashes are rarely intentional, and when they are, the intent usually has nothing to do with photography.

Agatha Christie doesn't need to kill people to write her books.

I'm sympathetic to arguments that child porn laws are overbroad and insufficiently nuanced, but neither of those analogies advances the ball one bit.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 23, 2009 4:55:32 PM

Anonymous. You are conflating production and consumption. No one is saying that Agatha Christie needed to kill people to write her books just like no one is saying that people who produce child porn should walk free. That's all production.

But the law is not outlawing production only; it's outlawing consumption. And it's doing so under theories that have no basis in fact. There is no evidence that the consumption of child porn induces people to make more of it. People who make child porn are not making cars. It's not even equivalent to people buying drugs. The overwhelming majority of child porn is never sold. Even the FBI admits this.

I can't think of a single person who argues that people who produce child pron should not be in jail. The question is how does putting people who consume child porn in jail advance the interest of protecting children. And there is not even a remotely convincing answer to that question. It simply doesn't.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 23, 2009 5:15:10 PM

Daniel, I understand your points. My point was that analogies to car crashes and mystery novels aren't particularly useful.

The main argument for punishing consumption harshly is in the post: consumption "create[s] the demand that provides the incentive for people to produce it." I'm not aware of whether there is or isn't any basis in fact for that argument, but at the very least it's intuitively logical, and not at all rebutted by analogies to car crashes and child porn.

On further reflection, I suppose the car crashes analogy responds to the secondary argument for punishing consumption harshly: that the victim experiences additional harm, as the victim described in the post felt as though she was "being raped over and over again when she discovered that the pictures of her could be viewed forever by people like Mr. Woodward on their computers." But it doesn't address the main argument.

Posted by: anonymous | Sep 23, 2009 5:32:58 PM

What if the car crashes are criminal in nature, part of a felony or intoxication? Will my collecting these affect their incidence? Their being photographed and printed in a Mexico City newspaper may encourage more such crimes by the fame, glamor, notoriety. The Supremacy was in the newspaper once. For a month, pretty girls kept staring at the Supremacy, as they were talking about something unrelated.

Beyond the policy arguments, the Free Speech and Free Press clauses of our First Amendment are each coins with two sides. On the obverse side of each coin is the freedom to receive information, including graphic depictions of crime. That is settled law not brought up in this context.

If the government claims that purchase of such material increases its production, 1) it should stop being the biggest purchaser and subscriber in the world to such material; 2) it has the burden of proof to show evidence that the government claim is true. Otherwise this is pretextual feminist lawyer gotcha of the productive male ("Teacher of the Year"). If the lawyer claims this is a malum prohibitum based on current tastes, then homosexual porn, with frightening hairy guys going at it, is pretty gross. It promotes adult homosexual promiscuity, associated with a mass eradication of people with dark skins around the world, via AIDS. There is a shocking hypocrisy, with wealthy homosexuals changing Supreme Court jurisprudence to immunize their deadly fun.
**********
If pedophiles get as rich as homosexuals, and buy off the lawyer profession, look for pedophilia to become immunized and privileged just as homosexuals are, despite the deadliness of homosexual practices. After that, it will be actionable to make a pedophilia joke, to publicly criticize pedophilia, to discriminate against it, even in the context of a child care job. The lawyer is forcing cross dresser freaks on our elementary school classes. Pedophiles are more normal than these folks. As with homosexuality, there will be forced pedophilia propaganda and indoctrination down to kindergarten. This period of persecution of an "alternative sexual preference" will be spoken of in the same tones as those horrible pre-Stonewall days. After homosexuals show they are not stupid enough to get married to save moribund family law, the lawyer will enable other marital combinations, such as marriage to children and animals.

It is just a matter of time. The lawyer wants the American family dead, because it competes for authority with central government. The latter is a wholly owned subsidiary of the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 23, 2009 8:10:59 PM

I'll just make the Agatha Christie analogy one more time, to make it clearer. I do agree that Christie never had to kill anyone to write her novels, the way child porn producers have to actually abuse children to create their product.

But no one ever claimed that consumers of Christie's novels was more likely to commit murders. Yet, the government regularly contends that consumers of child porn are more likely to abuse children, despite a distinct lack of evidence to support it.

Congress has never outlawed fictitious depictions of murder, but it DID outlaw fictitious depictions of child porn. The Supreme Court found the latter provision unconstitutional.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Sep 24, 2009 7:32:32 AM

People who defend possessors, voyeurs or anyone who contributes to the victimization of children through child pornography make me physically ill. If there was no demand for the product, there would be less of it. I am quite sure your song would be different if it were your daughter, niece or other relative whose picture was being traded all over the world. I am sorry, I have NO sympathy for ANY of these defendants and I have scorn for those of you who think that a probationary sentence will stop these VICTIMIZERS from continuing their acts.

Posted by: Kelly | Sep 24, 2009 10:07:35 AM

Kelly: Get ready. The lawyer will be disappointed in the business generated by homosexuals. He will move on to forcing pedophile rights on our kids, including forced indoctrination of our kindergarten children into acceptance of this alternate sex preference.

Behind every change that makes you physically ill, you will find a lawyer generating a lawyer job. That is why we need an Amendment to the Constitution excluding all lawyers from all benches, all legislative sears, and all responsible policy positions in the executive.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 24, 2009 9:17:47 PM

Whew! lots of anti-lawyer sentiment here. Let's not blame everything on the legal profession, and as for Supremacy Clause's proposal that we need "an Amendment to the Constitution excluding all lawyers from all benches, all legislative sears (sic), and all responsible policy positions in the executive", that is nuts. Just as I would not want to use a bridge designed by non-engineers, or undergo surgery performed by a non-physician, I would not want to rely on legal advice, or suffer legal judgments or representations, by an untrained person.

I'm not a lawyer, no personal or work ties to the legal profession at all--- just a person interested in the law in some of its intersections with our society, and in civil liberties.

I have been unable so far to form a firm opinion on legal penalties for possessing child porn. It is really a tough question. Merely possessing it does seem like a "thought crime". On the other hand, we have laws against possessing things that you know were illegally produced or obtained, such as stolen goods and moonshine whiskey, and laws against possessing illegal things with the apparent intent to distribute them even if you did not make them, such as counterfeit currency. Any lawyer would probably cringe at my examples, though, because the legal foundation may differ in each case.

The fact that the Supreme Court has exempted "virtual" child porn (made with computer graphics, say, so that no real children are involved in the acts depicted, would seem to indicate that the only reason they accept for prosecuting possession of child porn is that the pictures represent harm done to actual children. If they accepted the argument that viewing child porn makes one more likely to go out and harm a child, and deemed it such a risk that it did not deserve free speech protection, then they would make possession of virtual child porn a crime also. That would be parallel to other limitations on free speech such as advocating the violent overthrow of the government, and of course shouting Fire in a crowded theater.

The individual described in the case mentioned on this page made and distributed sadistic child porn even while in jail. But it was hand-drawn, or verbal (written), so no children were involved. Following what I think is the Supreme Court's reasoning, I'd say he should not be prosecuted for these specific things. Whether he is sane or not, whether when freed he would "pose a risk to himself or others" when he is so unable to control his actions, that is another question.

As a lay person I would add that the nature of our society (large mobile population, parents working) makes for increased risk from criminals. A child abuser in a village of 400 people would have trouble going unnoticed. If children were as supervised as they were when I was a kid, child abusers would have less access to them. But those conditions are gone and unlikely to return. In addition, our moral sense has expanded so that we are caring more about people of all ages who used to be expendable (homeless people, poor children, etc.) So we end up having to find ways to protect children by laws, rather than by the ways we used to protect them. This is going to lead to conflict between different ideals: protection, civil liberties, rights of parents.

What I see in this area of the law is evolution, and increased public discussion (not always very reasonable). These will be the basis for new legal approaches to conform with new societal conditions.

Apologies for such a long post. It helped me sort out my thoughts a little. We all need to give these matters some rigorous back-and-forth.

Posted by: Cynthia | Oct 8, 2009 2:01:55 PM

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