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November 19, 2009

"Does the punishment fit the crime for child porn?"

The question in the title of this post is the headline of this effective local article from Ohio.  Here are excerpts, which also serve to spotlight how different sentences for this crime can often be depending upon whether a defendant is prosecuted in state or federal court:

Legal experts on all sides agree that downloading and watching child pornography is repugnant behavior. What they are at odds over is whether such defendants are as much of a threat to society as rapists or murderers. Nationwide, judges are questioning whether mandatory and recommended sentences for child porn are too harsh....

In 1991, a person with no criminal history who possessed violent child pornography images and movies and shared them with others would face a maximum of two years in prison in federal cases. Today, that same person could face more than 20 years behind bars....

[U]nder guidelines set by the U.S. Sentencing Commission — a federal agency that turns legislation into rules that guide judges on sentencing — child porn viewers often accumulate penalties, known as "enhancements" that add time for those who use the Internet and other circumstances that appear in nearly every child pornography case. This means the recommended sentences for viewers can easily be higher than those for predators.

"Simply stated, a defendant whose only crime is personal use typically receives the same sentence as a commercial peddler or someone who has molested a child," attorney Joseph W. Gardner stated in his sentencing memorandum on behalf of client Anthony Campana. Campana, 41, of Fairport Harbor was sentenced to 20 years in prison Oct. 30 by U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus in Cleveland.

Campana, a truck driver with no prior criminal record, was previously convicted by a jury of possession and distribution of child pornography. Gardner requested Campana receive no more than six years in prison out of a possible life term. The defense attorney argued, "His crimes were perpetrated on a computer, not on children."...

Lake County Common Pleas Judge Vincent A. Culotta said watching child porn is far from a victimless crime — as real children are forced into the underground sex world to make the images. Yet Culotta said as a judge, his job is to compare child porn cases with other cases of similar nature.

Earlier this month, he was widely criticized on an online forum for sentencing an Eastlake man who swapped a large amount of child pornography to four years in prison — six years less than the prosecutor recommended. The judge explained in court that 10 years was too much time in the case of Paul Skala, a 62-year-old man with no prior criminal record. "You do realize that he never actually touched a child, right?" Culotta told Assistant Prosecutor Lisa Neroda.

He then gave recent examples in which the prosecutor's office recommended far lesser sentences for child porn cases in which the offender did have a prior criminal record. He also pointed out cases in which physical contact between the offender and victim occurred — but the recommendations were still less than what they had asked for in Skala's case. "There are a number of cases where people are being sentenced for actually harming children, and the recommendation does not even come close to 10 years," the judge said.

Experts say it has not been clearly established whether most viewers of child pornography are likely to commit acts of physical abuse.  Meanwhile, an increasing number of judges are starting to rebel against sentencing recommendations and guidelines in certain situations.

A few related recent child porn sentencing posts:

November 19, 2009 at 09:19 AM | Permalink

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Comments

i have a friend who was just found guilty of possessing child porn, 11 photos of unknown children (some might not even be real children but cyber-created) they were turned in to the police 5 weeks AFTER he was in jail for a probation violation charge. he was sentenced to 106 years. I do not believe that this is appropriate for a photo, however disgusting it may be. i know of another person who was convicted for child abuse -neglect resulting in death. was convicted of 6 years in prison, does this make sense.?

Posted by: christi carter | Dec 3, 2009 5:54:47 PM

I am a person, a friend of someone very wrongly accused, i am not a student, lawyer, or anything more than someone seeking to help my friend. knowledge is power, and through various links i found myself on this site.

Posted by: christi carter | Dec 3, 2009 5:57:58 PM

this occurred to my son , i want to know how to help him

Posted by: donna Nagel | Jan 14, 2010 8:50:51 AM

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