Sunday, November 23, 2014

Prosecutions and Convictions for Receiving, Possessing and Viewing Child Pornography Increasing at Record Rates

Convictions for receiving and possessing child pornography aren’t just on the rise in Florida! (See below article) 

As I previously posted back on October 12th   in Virginia in 2013 there were 1,052 convictions up from 714 in 2012. That’s a 47.33% increase in 12 months. Oh, and 37 of the 2013 convictions were juveniles themselves. Children looking at images of children or children taking and sharing photos of themselves with other children.
Remember child pornography can be prosecuted by the state, by the fed's or by both!

Here are two past posts about ICAC’s and prosecuting/convicting child porn viewers as harshly or more harshly than the producers, simply because there are many more viewers.
The below article does an excellent job in advising the readers of who is being swept up by these Internet Crimes Against Children Units (ICAC’s), being sentenced to 5, 10, 20, 25, 30, 35 and more years in prison and THEN are labeled/monitored as Violent Sex Offenders for 25 years or life in Florida as well as  in Virginia. As discussed below many of these citizens have no prior convictions AND they have NEVER inappropriately touched a child but yet we’re sending them to prison and monitoring them for life as dangerous sexual predators when they pose no risk to society or public safety. But the article also includes crimes where the offender did physically abuse a child which can make it difficult for the readers to decipher the difference between the two but still an informative piece that I wanted share with all of you. 

It is well worth a read! 

Mary Devoy

Local child sex prosecutions at record rate, November 23, 2014

TAMPA — A defense contractor from Riverview is spending 30 years in prison for forcing a 16-year-old girl to have sex with him and using his computer to record their encounter. 

A worship minister from Winter Garden was arrested and charged with receiving and possessing child pornography. 

A former American Airlines pilot from St. Petersburg was sentenced to 21 years in prison for producing, distributing and possessing child pornography after he used two minor victims to make sexually explicit videos. 

Federal prosecutors in the Middle District of Florida, which includes Tampa, prosecuted more cases involving child exploitation in the past fiscal year than any year before, according to U.S. attorney’s office records. 

“It’s our most productive year ever,” U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley said.
Bentley credited a cooperative atmosphere among federal, state and local authorities for the high number of prosecutions.

“I do not believe that the prevalence of child pornography and crimes against children is higher here in Florida than elsewhere in the country,’’ Bentley said. “It’s a national problem. Law enforcement here has been particularly adept at dealing with it. It’s a huge problem nationwide.” 

The cases fall under the umbrella of Project Safe Childhood, a Justice Department initiative aimed at preventing and stopping child exploitation. 

In Tampa alone, federal prosecutors brought 49 Project Safe Childhood cases last year, up from 29 the previous year and 16 the year before. In the Middle District, prosecutors brought 127 cases, up from 104 the previous year and 82 the year before. 

Jim Skuthan, chief assistant public defender for the district, said a substantial majority of the cases prosecuted here involve possessing, receiving or trading child pornography rather than hands-on offenses against children. 

“A lot of those defendants will pass polygraph exams confirming they have never, as an adult, had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor,” he said. “Those polygraph examinations are used in risk assessments done by psychologists to determine future dangerousness or risk of recidivism.” 

Yet, Skuthan said, the penalties can be high. He noted that in 2012, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued a report recommending changes to sentencing guidelines for child pornography. The commission noted that the nature of child pornography has changed because of the Internet, and factors that used to be cited to determine which offenses are worse than others are not necessarily relevant anymore. For example, defendants who use a computer are sentenced more harshly. 

According to information from the U.S. attorney’s office, sentences received this past year in Tampa for defendants prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood ranged from two years for a defendant who pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography to 40 years for a defendant who was convicted of sex trafficking minors. A defendant sentenced in Jacksonville was given 105 years in federal prison for extorting hundreds of girls across the country into sending him sexually explicit pictures of themselves. 

Skuthan said many of the child pornography defendants in the district are military veterans. 

“We’ve had veterans who on the day of sentencing have committed suicide,” he said. Other than child pornography cases, Skuthan said, “I’ve never had a client who committed suicide.” 

The people who look at child pornography, Skuthan said, are not like other criminals. 

“A very large percentage of our child pornography clients and child solicitation clients (who try to meet children over the Internet) have no prior criminal record,” he said. “They’re in their home when they’re downloading the child pornography. In most cases, when the FBI or law enforcement knocks on the door, these clients are tremendously cooperative and admit what they’re doing. If they refused to cooperate, they might not be prosecuted.” 

There is evidence on the computer, but other people may live in the home. “Because they’re otherwise law-abiding, they freely admit they were the one in the house downloading the child pornography, and they implicate themselves when they’re doing that.” 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Rodney Brown, who coordinates Project Safe Childhood for the district, said child porn possession should not be minimized. 

“Congress has determined and in fact has designated child pornography offenses as crimes of violence,” he said. “That is an important designation that Congress has made and courts have acknowledged.” 

Looking at child porn on a computer isn’t as easy as it sounds, Brown said. “It requires purposeful action.” 

For example, much of child pornography is traded through peer-to-peer file-sharing programs, which have to be found and downloaded. 

Then the offender has to browse, look for images and download those files, which can take anywhere from minutes to hours. In one case prosecuted out of Jacksonville, Brown said, investigators searching a home found a suspect downloading files he’d started hours earlier. 

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Sherri Alderman agreed it’s not an easy offense to commit: “I think most people know that it’s a horrible offense to do, so I don’t think it’s by mistake that they get into it.” 

Alderman said agents here have investigated people from all walks of life. “I’ve seen blue-collar and I’ve seen white-collar just as well, and married folks as well as someone you might think would be the typical person, social misfit,” she said. 

The one characteristic everyone agrees on is that the offenders overwhelmingly are male. 

Skuthan said his clients, overwhelmingly, have been “genuinely remorseful for what they have done” and comply with all treatment mandates and court requirements. 

“In my opinion,” he said, “most of these defendants will never get involved in illegal activity again.” 

Psychologist Eric Imhof has worked with sex offenders for more than 20 years. He said he generally works for the state and prosecutors seeking to confine sexually violent predators. But when it comes to child pornography viewers, Imhof said, he often works with defense lawyers. 

He agreed that those viewing child porn come from diverse backgrounds. “I’ve evaluated police officers, attorneys, welders, ditch diggers. It runs the whole gamut,” he said. 

Research suggests that only about 60 percent of the people who view child pornography could be diagnosed as pedophiles. 

“But what about the other 40 percent?” Imhof said. 

Sometimes alcoholism or depression or other mental disorders play a role, but not always. And Imhof noted that most people with those problems do not turn to child pornography. 

Most of the people who view child pornography don’t have antisocial characteristics seen in violent predators, Imhof said. This keeps them from taking the next step and committing contact offenses against children, he said. It also leads them to “spill their guts” when law enforcement comes calling, confessing in full. 

He said most of the defendants who look at child pornography haven’t thought through the damage being done to children. “They don’t think this is a real person, a real child that’s being victimized, being revictimized,” he said. “I don’t think they really understand that.” 

With the Internet, child pornography is relatively easily accessible, and defendants feel protected by anonymity, he said. It’s almost as though the computer screen is protecting them, keeping them separate. 

Imhof compared the phenomenon to the behavior of drivers who might scream, curse and gesture at people in other cars in ways they would never do face-to-face. “This piece of glass somehow buffers them,” he said. “They don’t make that connection, that emotional connection, with the victim.”