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May 16, 2010

Fascinating fight over victims' rights and defense representation in child porn sentencing

This piece in the Detroit News, which is headlined "Lawyer may face sanctions in child pornography case," reports on a fascinating conflict between a judge and a defense lawyer over the process surrounding the role of a victim in a child porn sentencing.  Here are the interesting details:

A lawyer faces possible sanctions after filing a motion in a child pornography case that a federal judge described as "a blatant attempt to intimidate the minor victim's mother."  But the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has come to the attorney's defense.

U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman said in a May 3 order that a motion from Troy attorney John Freeman seeking formal notice that the victim's mother wished to speak at a sentencing hearing was "unwarranted, baseless and worthy of contempt of court."  Friedman said he will hold a hearing on whether and how Freeman -- a former federal prosecutor -- should be sanctioned.  A date has not been set.

On April 15, Friedman sentenced former Walled Lake Schools official Craig Aleo to 60 years in prison -- more than double what prosecutors requested -- for crimes that included manufacturing child pornography in which a 4-year-old girl was victimized.  Aleo, 64, of Davisburg, has filed a notice of appeal.

Prior to the sentencing, Freeman filed a motion citing the Crime Victims' Rights Act.  In his motion, he said prosecutors were required to give advance notice of the contents of a victim impact statement from the child's mother so he could appropriately respond.  Friedman said no such requirement exists, and the motion "serves as yet another indication ... of the incredible lack of remorse for the victim in this matter."

In a response filed last week by Freeman and his attorney Martin Crandall, Freeman said his motion was intended to "address a potential conflict between (Aleo's) due process rights and a victim's right to be heard at sentencing" and was "never intended to intimidate a witness, nor prevent a victim from being heard."

Detroit attorney James Feinberg signed on to the response in an amicus filing on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  "The possibility of someone being sanctioned or held in contempt for aggressively and properly representing their client is very scary," Feinberg said Friday. The association "needs to make sure lawyers are free to aggressively represent their clients."

As detailed here, the CVRA only provides a right of notice to victims, not a right of notice to a defendant about what victims are likely to say.  Consequently, if Freeman cited only the CVRA to support his motion for defense notice, his motion was misguided.  But, absent strong evidence that Freeman has some truly nefarious intent, even a misguided defense motion requesting notice hardly seem like a sanctionable action.

May 16, 2010 at 08:57 PM | Permalink

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Please spread the word about this important show. When shows like this get good ratings, we are able to do them more often!

Victims’ rights advocate, author and anchor Jane Velez-Mitchell will host a powerful two-part special: Every Parent’s Nightmare- An Issues Investigation on Thursday November 4 and Friday November 5 at 7p (ET). Jane speaks with anguished parents of abducted and murdered children whose stories she has covered on her HLN show Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell.

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In September, The Surviving Parents Coalition completed a cross-country bike journey called “The Ride for Their Lives” to raise money for the Adam Walsh Act to create a national sex offender registry and to raise awareness on how we can protect children from predators.

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Issues with Jane Velez Mitchell airs daily on HLN at 7 p.m. (ET).

--
Sandra Mohr
Co-Author of "Addict Nation"
by Jane Velez-Mitchell, Host of HLN's "Issues"
213-446-6334
www.AddictNation.org

Posted by: JVMFan | Nov 2, 2010 5:10:14 PM

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