What Should We Do about Child Pornography?
Before I let loose, I want all of you to know that I spent many, many years working as a trial consultant for some of the bigger law firms in the country. I am deeply devoted to the law and to our system of justice. It is what helps make the United States stand out above all other countries in the world.
So, when I happened to read this past week about a well-known federal judge in New York, Jack B. Weinstein, who is on a crusade to combat what he calls “the unnecessary cruelty of the law,” I initially thought, good for him.
Then I learned that Judge Weinstein, as part of his crusade, is defending the supposed rights of a man who had amassed a vast collection of child pornography. The judge, in fact, had twice thrown out convictions that would have ensured that this particular man spend at least five years behind bars. I thought, are you kidding me?
Weinstein, who has been on the bench for 43 years, unabashedly has attacked the law passed by Congress that establishes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for anyone convicted of receiving child pornography. “I don’t approve of child pornography,” he told the New York Times. But, he added that he does not believe that those who view the images — as opposed to those who produce or sell them — present a threat to children. “We’re destroying lives unnecessarily,” he said in the interview. “At the most, they should be receiving treatment and supervision.”
And wait until you hear about the man the judge is defending. His name is Pietro Polizzi, a married father of five who collected more than 5,000 graphic photos of children, most of prepubescent girls. Did you hear me? That’s 5,000 graphic photos! At this dirtbag’s trial, his lawyer, incredibly, used an insanity defense, claiming Polizzi had been repeatedly raped as a child and had collected the pictures not for sexual gratification, but in the hopes of finding evidence of his own abuse.
Polizzi is a disgrace to society who needs to pay for what he did. My God, does anyone really believe that a five-year sentence is too severe for what this man did? Does anyone really think that what he was doing was just a harmless little hobby — an amateur investigation into his past? Does anyone truly believe we’re being too tough on a man who preys on children?
And let’s make no mistake about it: Polizzi was preying on children. He was gaining pleasure from the pain of real children who were exploited to make the photographs that he collected.
Judge Weinstein, as well as other federal judges who are involved in this issue, do point out that under federal mandatory sentencing guidelines, prison sentences for looking at pornographic pictures of children sometimes eclipse prison sentences for actually sexually abusing a child. And the judge is not suggesting possession of child pornography should no longer be a crime, but I am simply sickened that he would make the argument that those who possess, but don’t produce, child porn are somehow less culpable for the damage done to those children. Those people create the market for this whole sordid business. Yes, there are people who make child porn for their own pleasure, but they also make it because there are buyers for it. Anyone involved in the chain of victimization of children — whether a buyer or seller — is a criminal.
Obviously, we need to get a handle on child pornography. It’s flourishing throughout the Internet. So, what do you think is the answer? Do you think, as the federal judge does, that we should have a little more patience with adults who download photos of children? Should we view what they’re doing as a victimless crime which requires more counseling instead of punishment? Do you think it’s possible that therapy can cure people who genuinely want to look at such degrading, horrific photos? Or do you think we should throw the book at them, letting everyone know full well the consequences of such behavior?