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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Courts - "Federal Judge Weinstein Takes On Child Pornography Laws"

From a long story by A.G. Sulzberger in the May 21st NY Times:

There is little public sympathy for collectors of child pornography. Yet across the country, an increasing number of federal judges have come to their defense, criticizing changes to sentencing laws that have effectively quadrupled their average prison term over the last decade.

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a 20-year child pornography sentence by ruling that the sentencing guidelines for such cases, “unless applied with great care, can lead to unreasonable sentences.” The decision noted that the recommended sentences for looking at pictures of children being sexually abused sometimes eclipse those for actually sexually abusing a child. * * *

The child pornography industry has flourished through the Internet; the number of federal cases grew from fewer than 100 annually to more than 1,600 last year. As the number grew, Congress increased the recommended prison terms and established a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for anyone convicted of receiving child pornography. According to the federal defenders’ office, the average sentence was 91 months in 2007, up from 21 months a decade before.

But the tough penalties have chafed at many judges, echoing previous battles over drug cases. Last year, judges imposed sentences below the recommended range in more than half of all child pornography cases.

“What has caused concern in courts across the nation is that we have a lot of relatively law-abiding individuals sitting in the basement downloading the wrong kind of dirty pictures facing not just prison sentences but incredibly long prison sentences,” said Douglas A. Berman, a professor at Moritz College of Law of Ohio State University, who studies sentencing issues.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 22, 2010 05:39 PM
Posted to Courts in general