Judge Gives Man 5 Days for Child Porn, Rails Against Harsh Sentences

NBC News

A Brooklyn man who faced 10 years for downloading child pornography was sentenced to five days by a federal judge who sharply criticized punishment guidelines for failing to distinguish between dangerous offenders and those who pose little threat.

U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein wrote a 98-page decision explaining why he bypassed the guidelines and chose not to put the man in prison for possessing two dozen photos and videos — some showing men sexually assaulting girls as young as 3 years old, according to court papers.

But child-abuse victims' advocates said they were appalled by Weinstein's reasoning.

"I think Judge Weinstein's opinion minimizes the harm that is done to victims of these crimes from the mere act of viewing their images. It's a gross violation of privacy and an invasion of privacy that traumatizes them throughout their lives," said Paul Cassel, a former federal judge who is now a law professor at the University of Utah.

Those who favor tougher sentences point out that while many consumers of child pornography may not never lay a hand on a child, some do. And all, they say, play a role in a system that promotes the abuse of children.

"The viewing has a market-creation effect," Cassel said. "It ends up leading inexorably to the rape of children."

Jennifer Freeman, an attorney who represents child-porn victims in efforts to obtain restitution, called Weinstein's opinion "a diatribe" and said he was using the particulars of one case to indict the entire sentencing structure.

"He's basically saying it's not worth too much punishment," she said, adding that she did not want to comment on whether the man Weinstein sentenced deserved more time than five days.

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