U.S. Judges Challenge Mandatory Sentences In Child Porn Cases

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Federal trial judge Jack Weinstein of Brooklyn has twice thrown out convictions that would have ensured that a defendant spend at least five years behind bars, says the New York Times. He has pledged to break protocol and inform the next jury about the mandatory prison sentence that the charges carry. He declared that the man, who is awaiting a new trial, did not need an electronic ankle bracelet because he posed “no risk to society.” There is little public sympathy for collectors of child pornography. Yet across the country, an increasing number of federal judges have come to their defense, criticizing changes to sentencing laws that have effectively quadrupled their average prison term over the last decade.

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit vacated a 20-year child pornography sentence, ruling that the sentencing guidelines for such cases, “unless applied with great care, can lead to unreasonable sentences.” The decision noted that the recommended sentences for looking at pictures of children being sexually abused sometimes eclipse those for actually sexually abusing a child. Weinstein has gone to extraordinary lengths to challenge the strict punishments, issuing a series of rulings that directly attack the mandatory five-year prison sentence faced by defendants charged with receiving child pornography.

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