Judges Question Long Child Porn Sentences

Judge Stephen Reinhardt, center.
Judge Stephen Reinhardt, center.

Two federal appeals judges questioned the long prison sentenced handed down to otherwise law abiding citizens convicted of possessing child pornography.

In a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision Thursday upholding the 10-year prison term for a first-time offender, Lawson Hardrick Jr., Judges Stephen Reinhardt and John Noonan said there must be some other solution to the problem of how to cure the illness.

“Like Judge Noonan, I am disturbed about the practical impact of the child pornography laws upon otherwise law-abiding individuals,” Reinhardt wrote.  “It is my view that ‘psychological impairment’ is in most, if not all, cases the cause of the criminal conduct. Whether psychiatric treatment rather than incarceration would be the proper response by state authorities is a matter that I would hope would be given more serious consideration than it has until now,” he said.

“Surely sentences of five to twenty years for a first offense of viewing child pornography are not the solution,” Reinhardt concluded.

The majority opinion, written by Judge Mary Murguia, upheld the conviction of Hardwick based on circumstantial evidence.

Murguia wrote that the evidence of Hardwick’s knowledge was sufficient to support the verdict, even though there was no direct evidence that he had downloaded or watched the files.  But the government produced evidence that he control of the two computers in San Diego where videos were found and the timing and location of the videos were inconsistent with Hardwick’s defense that he accidentally downloaded the material or that a hacker downloaded them without his knowledge.

Hardwick’s conviction and 10-year sentence for a first offense was upheld.

Case: U.S. v. Hardwick, No.12-03061

 

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