More than 100 men have faced federal charges in Detroit over the last three years in a crackdown on child predators and porn collectors, says the Detroit Free Press. Many came from out of state to have sex with children. “We’ve had an explosion in child exploitation cases, and the Internet is the driving force,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy, who assembled a team of seven prosecutors in 2006 to attack the problem. Child protection advocates and law enforcement officials cheer the prosecutions, but defense lawyers, psychologists, and others complain that Congress and federal prosecutors are lumping those who look at child porn into the same category as sexual predators, exposing them to potential 10-year prison sentences–harsher penalties than are issued under state law.
“There’s a big difference between lookers and touchers,” said federal defender Jonathan Epstein, adding that the new federal penalties for possession of child pornography are too harsh and don’t adequately distinguish between the two kinds of defendants. He said an unregulated Internet has resulted in undercover cops’ invading the sanctity of people’s homes. One federal judge cited the federal-state sentencing disparity. “Sentencing a man who possesses child pornography to a term of six to seven years while a child predator receives only a 1-year jail sentence” under state law “does not promote respect for the law; to the contrary, it subjects the law to ridicule, criticism and skepticism,” said U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff of Port Huron, Mi.