Saturday, November 24, 2012

20 years or a life sentence for possession of child porn

In November 2011, a Florida judge sentenced a man to life in prison for possession of 454 child pornography images.
But the severity of the justice meted out to Mr. Vilca, who had no previous criminal record, has led some criminal justice experts to question whether increasingly harsh penalties delivered in cases involving the viewing of pornography really fit the crime. Had Mr. Vilca actually molested a child, they note, he might well have received a lighter sentence.
I need to do more research on this but I wonder if contact offenses get shorter sentences because they are less frequently prosecuted at the federal level. Tracking down people who download child porn is easy to do for the feds; tracking down individuals who sexually abuse children is probably more often investigated at the local level. 
Mr. Hollander said Mr. Vilca had consistently said he did not know the images were on his computer. He refused a plea bargain of 20 years in prison, after which the state attorney increased the charges. The sentence will be appealed, Mr. Hollander said.
Notice this: The prosecutor was willing to let this guy off "easy" with a 20-year sentence but when the defendant chose to go to trial, the prosecutor increased the charges. Why? Because he could? If 20 years was going to be enough to keep the world safe from this young man, why the extra charges that would increase his sentence? If the prosecutor really believes that the life sentence is appropriate in this case, why did he offer a 20-year plea agreement to begin with? 

I don't know how prosecutors and judges like this can sleep at night.
Troy K. Stabenow, an assistant federal public defender in Missouri’s Western District, noted that most people assume that someone who looks at child pornography is also a child molester or will become a child molester, a view often mirrored by judges. 
But a growing body of scientific research shows that this is not the case, he said. Many passive viewers of child pornography never molest children, and not all child molesters have a penchant for pornography. 
“I’m not suggesting that someone who looks at child pornography should just walk,” he said. “But we ought to punish people for what they do, not for our fear.” [My emphasis.]