November 29, 2011

Marshall Frank: Just one click can lead to child pornography conviction

11-29-2011 National:

Imagine being a middle-aged man with a respectable job and good family. You have one weakness: pornography. One day, you receive an email with a hyperlink, clearly stating it's a graphic video with children in pornographic situations. Curiously, you click the link and download a site. A few days go by and you're suddenly whisked off to jail. All the decency within your life is erased by a single click of the mouse.

Worth it?

I know a 48-year-old man who is otherwise a fine and caring person with a clean record. He didn't know that law enforcement was monitoring downloads of child porn sites. All the cops had to do is identify his computer, its owner and its location. At 6:30 in the morning, a knock at the door derailed his life forever. Hauled off to jail, his computer was impounded and his residence searched.

Watching child porn on a computer can render a first-time offender a minimum sentence of five years in federal prison. The offenders are not limited to the low end of society. Arrests have been made of many in respectable professions, including teachers, clergy, attorneys and doctors.

There are facts that consumers (viewers) of child pornography on the Internet should know. The chances of getting caught are great because Big Brother is watching. When caught, the consequences will be life-changing. After prison, it requires registering as a felony sex offender. Finding a job will be tough. It will decimate a reputation.

The impact goes beyond jail. Innocent people often are subjected to fallout from the ripple effect. Spouses and other family members must often revert to welfare systems for support while living under a cloud of humiliation. Children have to face a shame in a school environment. Many families move to another state.

One little click.

While hard statistics are not available, there have been several reports around the country of child porn defendants awaiting trial who have committed suicide.

One might argue that the mere viewing of child porn is not nearly as egregious as the production and distribution for profit. That may be so, but the intent of lawmakers is to diminish the demand which (hopefully) would ultimately diminish the supply. So far, not so good.

The prisons are rapidly filling with consumers of child porn. While drugs and immigration offenses still comprise the bulk of federal crimes, the FBI claims that arrests for consumers of child porn have skyrocketed 2,500 percent since 1996, as new technology has allowed law enforcement to easily track sources of website downloads. The FBI has made more than 10,000 arrests for child porn since 1996. That doesn't include the thousands of arrests made by local and state law enforcement.

In federal prosecutions, the conviction rate is 95 percent. Inmates are not usually paroled until they've served at least 90 percent of their time.

For the cops, it's easy stats. Local police have stepped up their investigation of child porn viewers on the Internet. All it requires is technically savvy officers and a little patience.

Like fishing in a trout pond. ..Source.. by Marshall Frank is an author and retired Miami police detective who lives in Melbourne.

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