Federal Child Porn Cases Double, Outpace Many Fraud Cases

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The courtroom scenes now are common around the nation: Seemingly normal people are drawn into secret obsessions with Internet child porn, says the Dallas Morning News. It’s increasingly easy to find online. For many, the toxic mix of guilt, shame, and attraction becomes an irresistible magnet. People like Randy Paroline of Texas are stunned to end up in courtrooms and prisons – and labeled as beyond redemption. Until FBI agents came to his air-conditioning company in 2008, Paroline said in federal court, he didn’t know that he could face prison and lifetime registration as a sex offender for opening free images on the Internet. “I never intended to hurt anyone,” Paroline said. “I had no idea I would end up here.”

Child porn possession has been a federal crime since 1990. In the last decade, federal prosecutions more than doubled nationwide. In Texas, the cases have grown faster than nearly any category of federal offense, says Syracuse University’s TRAC database. Since October 2007, more child porn cases have been filed in Texas than old-school federal prosecutions for bank robbery or bank fraud, mail fraud or wire fraud. The cases often involve seemingly ordinary people with stable jobs and families. The nearly 1,000 Texans prosecuted since 2000 include band instructors and businessmen, physicians and pastors and prison guards, restaurant managers, and retirees. Most defendants, like Paroline, quickly plead guilty. The cases are so repellent that cops and prosecutors get uneasy when asked why offenders do what they do.

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