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Change child porn punishments? Federal commission thinks it’s a good idea

By: Aaron Dimick Email
By: Aaron Dimick Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – How would you feel about softer penalties for those who look at and distribute child pornography?

Well a government commission thinks that could be a good idea.

A new report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission is calling on Congress to change federal punishments relating to child porn.

The study of 2,700 cases shows the internet has created a big gray area when it comes to child porn and laws need to be updated to reflect a difference between who's simply looking at the illegal materials and who’s sharing them.

The findings show federal law enforcement agencies handle nearly 2,000 child porn prosecutions a year, that's up from 700 a decade ago.

The District Attorney in Chippewa County told WEAU his office has also seen these cases balloon.

“It’s getting in tune with what the internet age has brought to us,” said District Attorney Steve Gibbs.

Gibbs said when it comes to child porn; there are two different types of people.

“The old ones where they actually make the child pornography, some of these internet possessors are the actual child predators. The other ones are college students who go to chat rooms and are interested, look at this stuff, don’t know it’s on their computer, kind of the curious browser,” Gibbs said.

The study suggests judges aren't taking this into account, often throwing the book at even the curious.

Knowing this, Attorney Harry Hertel said lawyers lobby for the punishment fitting the person and not the crime.

“What was the number of images that they had, what was the circumstances they were obtained, was there an exchange of information. Violence normally only occurs at the point of the exploitation of the children, and usually nowadays that's in eastern European countries, southeast Asian countries, places over which the federal government has little ability to pursue jurisdiction,” Hertel said.

Gibbs said local district attorneys and judges are catching on, while still taking this seriously.

“I don't want child pornographers out there running around in the street. I don't on the other hand want to lock up a 21 year old college student who was in a file sharing room and looked at this stuff,” Gibbs said.

A link to the full report is posted below.


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