Wednesday, May 31, 2017

HR1761: Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017 - Passed thru Congress 368 to 51 Last Week. It subjects Teen Sexters to 15-Years in Federal Prison and was requested by the US Department of Justice

Rep. Johnson is so proud of this Bill, this is what he has on his Home page

I have been tracking this Bill, it’s been listed on the right side of the Home page for weeks now. And I’ve Tweeted to the Sponsor and about it both before and after it passed Congress last week. 

Now today Elizabeth Nolan over at has written an article about it which I’m posting at the very bottom. 

HR1761: Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017 

Sponsor: Mike Johnson [R-LA], who per the below article quoted scripture to push this poorly written Bill through the U.S. House.  

Something I've learned over the last 9 years of advocacy. Anytime a Legislator claims a Bill is "common sense", or "if it saves one child it's worth it" OR they quote scripture when selling the proposal, it's time to look for and then point out the collateral consequences because I guarantee there are some doozy's buried in it.

·                       Poe, Ted [R-TX2] (joined Apr 12, 2017)
·                       Biggs, Andy [R-AZ5] (joined Apr 26, 2017)
·                       Scalise, Steve [R-LA1] (joined Apr 26, 2017)
·                       Sessions, Pete [R-TX32] (joined May 19, 2017)
·                       Roe, David “Phil” [R-TN1] (joined May 22, 2017)
·                       Tenney, Claudia [R-NY22] (joined May 22, 2017)  

On May 25th Congress voted on HR1761 and it passed 368 to 51. 

Of Virginia’s 11 House Representatives, only three voted against it. That took courage.
·                       Donald McEachin
·                       Bobby Scott
·                       Donald Beyer 

To see how your Representative voted go to And if you are on Twitter or Facebook, take a minute this week and let your one Representative know that you are either pleased with their ‘nay’ vote OR deeply disappointed with their ‘yea’ vote. 

U.S. Congress members from Virginia:
1-   Donald Beyer                     D         8th District               202-225-4376       1119 Longworth House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
2-   Dave Brat                            R         7th District        202-225-2815       1628 Longworth House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
3-   Barbara Comstock           R         10th District 202-225-5136       229 Cannon House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
4-   Gerry Connolly      D         11 th District 202-225-1492   2238 Rayburn House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
5-   Bob Goodlatte                   R         6th District   202-225-5431 2309 Rayburn House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
6-   Morgan Griffith     R         9th District   202-225-3861    2202 Rayburn House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
7-   Tom Garrett                       R         5th District   202-225-4711  415 Cannon House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
8-   Donald McEachin             D         4th District   202-225-6365            314 Cannon House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
9-   Bobby Scott                        D         3rd District   202-225-8351 1201 Longworth House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
10- Scott Taylor                        R         2nd District   202-225-4215 412 Cannon House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515
11- Robert Wittman                R         1st District    202-225-4261     2055 Rayburn House Bldg Washington, D.C. 20515

HR1761 now heads to the U.S. Senate. 

Please contact both of Virginia’s Senators this week. Either through their website form or via phone call and ask them to vote ‘nay’ on HR1761 when it comes up for a vote in the Senate. 

U.S. Senators from Virginia:
1- Mark Warner          D         202-224-2023     475 Russell Senate Bldg Washington, D.C. 20510

2- Tim Kaine                D         202-224-4024     231 Russell Senate Bldg Washington, D.C. 20510

Thank you. 

Mary Davye Devoy

House Overwhelmingly Supports Bill Subjecting Teen Sexters to 15-Years in Federal Prison
The bill was requested by the Department of Justice after federal prosecutors bungled a child exploitation case

Teens who text each other explicit images could be subject to 15 years in federal prison under a new bill that just passed the House of Representatives. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, has called the measure "deadly and counterproductive." 

"While the bill is well intended, it is overbroad in scope and will punish the very people it indicates it is designed to protect: our children," Lee said during a House floor debate over the bill. The bill would also raise "new constitutional concerns" and "exacerbate overwhelming concerns with the unfair and unjust mandatory minimum sentencing that contributes to the overcriminalization of juveniles and mass incarceration generally." 

Introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) in March, the "Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017" passed the House by an overwhelming majority last week. Only two Republicans—Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky—voted against the bill, along with 53 Democrats. Most of the opposition centered on the bill's effective expansion of mandatory-minimum prison sentences. 

One vocal opponent was Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), who called the legislation "particularly appalling" because it would "apply to people who I think we should all agree should not be subject" to long mandatory minimums. "Under this law, teenagers who engage in consensual conduct and send photos of a sexual nature to their friends or even to each other may be prosecuted and the judge must sentence them to at least 15 years in prison," said Scott on the House floor.

What's more, "the law explicitly states that the mandatory minimums will apply equally to an attempt or a conspiracy," Scott noted:


That means if a teenager attempts to obtain a photo of sexually explicit conduct by requesting it from his teenage girlfriend, the judge must sentence that teenager to prison for at least 15 years for making such an attempt. If a teenager goads a friend to ask a teenager to take a sexually explicit image of herself, just by asking, he could be guilty of conspiracy or attempt, and the judge must sentence that teenager to at least 15 years in prison.

But Johnson, a freshman congressman (and vocal Trump supporter), dismissed opponents' concern that the measure would be used in ways he didn't intend it to be used. "In Scripture, Romans 13 refers to the governing authorities as 'God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer,'" he said in response to their floor concerns. "I, for one, believe we have a moral obligation, as any just government should, to defend the defenseless." 

Johnson has repeatedly claimed that his bill will close "loopholes" that allow child pornographers to go free. But in the only "loophole" case he has pinpointed, it's overreaching federal prosecutors who bungled bringing a bad guy to justice, not some fundamental flaw in our criminal code. In that case, 19-year-old Anthony Palomino-Coronado was accused of molesting his 7-year-old neighbor repeatedly over the course of several months. In investigating the case, police discovered one photo of the abuse that had been taken and subsequently deleted from Palomino-Coronado's phone. 

Combined with the victim's testimony, the photo should have guaranteed state police little trouble in trying to prosecute Palomino-Coronado for sexual abuse of a child. But federal prosecutors preempted such a prosecution by deciding to instead try Palomino-Coronado in federal court for producing child pornography. 

It was a bad call—the case "could have been brought in state court and the defendant would have been subjected to extremely long, lengthy prison time," Rep. Scott noted during floor debate. But federal law against producing child pornography requires a minor to have been recruited "for the purpose of" producing photo or video. In this case, the court concluded, the longterm pattern of abuse, combined with the fact that only one explicit image was ever taken (and subsequently deleted), meant the perpetrator's purpose was not producing child porn but, rather, his own sexual gratification. If the feds had simply let the state handle the case as one of sexual abuse, Palomino-Coronado would probably be behind bars right now; instead, they overreached with the child porn charge, and now he's free. 

Rather than learn from that mistake, the Department of Justice (DOJ) pushed for federal lawmakers to amend U.S. criminal code to make their prosecutorial overreach more permissible. According to Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), the changes in Johnson's bill were "requested by the unit at the Department of Justice that enforces the laws against child pornography." 

Legislators aren't supposed to be mere puppets for law enforcement agencies. Yet here we are: A bill specifically requested by DOJ was rushed through the House of Representatives with near-universal support from Republicans and also a lot of support from Democrats. Opposition to the bill from a committed group of criminal justice reformers was ignored. And amendments aimed at fixing the most problematic parts of the bill—its reliance on mandatory minimum sentencing schemes and its failure to exclude minors trading photos with other minors from child-porn prosecutions—were both voted down. 

"While we all agree that no child pornography offense should go unpunished, we cannot overlook the consequences of mandatory minimum sentencing," said Conyers on the House floor. Under current U.S. law, first-time offenses for child porn are punishable by mandatory imprisonment of at least 15 years, with repeat offenders subject to 25- and 35-year minimums. "By modifying and expanding [federal law] to include several new ways in which to violate the prohibition against the production of child pornography, the bill would subject new classes of defendants to mandatory minimum sentences," he explained. 

Supporters of the legislation said there's no reason to think that federal prosecutors will use the bill against teen sexters, since they have not done so in the past. But state prosecutors have. And we're also up against a new federal administration—one that has explicitly endorsed mandatory minimums and other tough-on-crime endeavors. So, no, the FBI probably isn't about to start rounding up teen sexters in mass. But what will happen the next time ICE finds a racy image on a 17-year-old Mexican immigrant's phone? 

We simply "cannot rely on prospective discretion to protect juveniles under this statute," said Conyers, "given the new policy of the Attorney General. We are under a new regime here at the federal level, and I can't depend on relying on the prosecutorial discretion to protect juveniles under this statute." 

Opposing lawmakers also rejected the argument that while mandatory minimum sentences might generally be bad, they were OK in this instance because of our (rightful) revulsion at people who exploit children. 

"We have to recognize that mandatory minimums in the code did not get there all at once. They got there one at a time, each part of a larger bill, which, on balance, might seem like a good idea," said Scott. "The only way to stop passing new mandatory minimums is to stop passing bills that contain or broaden the application of mandatory minimums. Giving lip service to the suggestion that you would have preferred that the mandatory minimum had not been in the bill and then voting for the bill anyway not only creates that new mandatory minimum, but it also guarantees that mandatory minimums will be included in the next crime bill." 

A statement of opposition filed by Reps. Conyers, Lee, and several others stated that while "no child pornography offense should go unpunished," Johnson's bill "would subject more individuals to mandatory minimum penalties at a time when the federal criminal justice system should be moving away from such sentencing schemes."