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Office: (515) 244-7424  |  Fax: (515) 850-1900

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Child porn is revolting, but penalties can be too severe, inflexible

 

I used to believe, with a moral outrage that left little room for ambiguity, that there was no more despicable crime than preying on children. Those who abused, exploited or sexually objectified people too young to understand or defend themselves should have the book thrown at them. But such absolutism based on revulsion doesn't necessarily make the best public policy. There are shades of gray, cycles of abuse and risk factors to be considered.

 

These reckonings were prompted by a recent news item about a western Iowa man sentenced to eight years in federal prison for possession of online child pornography. As with drug crimes, child pornography falls under federal mandatory-minimum sentencing guidelines that leave little room for discretion. But as with drug crimes, there is a spectrum of severity and causation that tells us not every criminal should be handled the same way.

 

What the 41-year-old Mitchell Obrecht of Carter Lake pleaded guilty to doing was disgusting: possessing pictures on his home computers of people under 18 — even boys under 12 — in grotesque sexually explicit conduct. But he's not accused of making the pictures or interacting with the children. His written plea for a lighter sentence noted he was never accused of an offense against a child and has no other criminal history. It also said he was a victim of physical and sexual abuse by a stepfather between ages 9 and 12.
 

Read the article from the Des Moines Register.

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