In ME, Internet behind push for kiddie porn penalties

Parents ask for stricter penalties for possession of child pornography, and politicians are behind them all the way.

In Maine, the state Legislature heard from parents of abused children who want stiffer penalties for possession of child pornography. The rapid pace at which a child's images can spread around the Internet is driving the calls, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Advocates of stricter laws want to reduce from 10 the minimum number of pieces of porn that it takes to charge someone with intent to distribute, a designation that raises the jail term from one year to five.

"This affects a child, I believe, for the rest of their life," said Robin Sanderson, the parent of a victim. "It should be just one tape, zero tolerance, it should be zero tolerance."

The bill considered during Monday’s public hearing would reduce the minimum number of prints or videos to two before an offender could be charged with trafficking in sexually explicit material.

Jeffrey Edmunds, 42, of Auburn, who was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison by the United States District Court in Concord, N.H., last August after pleading guilty to four counts of production of child pornography. Under Maine law, however, Edmunds would have faced less than a year for being in possession of fewer than 10 videos, according to officials who testified Monday.

"The law now says a person must possess 10 or more copies of the sexually explicit material in order for there to be a permissible inference of the intent to distribute," said Rep. Richard Sykes, R-Harrison. "That needs to change."

But several lawyers argued making possession practically synonymous with intent to distribute is the wrong way to go.

Walter McKee, representing the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, argued: "I join everybody here in their deep concern about this particular type of conduct," he said, "but creating this permissible inference that’s going to be talked about with the jury, that if you have two [videotapes or images] you must be someone that is going to disseminate them puts the cart before the horse."

Evert Fowle, a district attorney and vice president of the Maine Prosecutors Association, said "This gets very confusing to juries. Why not just make simple possession a felony? he argued.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, co-chairman of the panel, said he expected to raise penalties for simple possession:

"I, for one, think we should look at these penalties and see if we need to increase them. Five years for possessing this sort of stuff does not seem enough to me."

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All