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Feb 15 2012

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Lawmakers Send Stern Message to Sentencing Panel on Child Porn Cases – Stern Should Mean a Needle in Their Arm

By Milton J. Valencia, Globe Staff

Even before a long-awaited hearing on federal child porn sentences began today, members of Congress had made their intentions clear: keep the rigid sentences.

The heads of the House and Senate judiciary committees and the subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security wrote US District Court Judge Patti B. Saris a letter urging that the US Sentencing Commission abide by the public’s will in handing out harsh sentences to defendants convicted of child pornography.

The letter arrived just before the Sentencing Commission – which Saris, a judge from federal court in Boston, chairs – began debating the sentencing guidelines for child pornography, and the dignitaries called out Saris for her history of straying from guidelines.

The guidelines have come under increased scrutiny over the past decade as Congress has enacted tougher penalties for anyone convicted of possessing of child pornography. In some cases, a defendant convicted of a first-time offense could be sentenced to 17 years in prison under the guidelines.

But federal judges are increasingly resisting the guidelines, which are only advisory. Many judges, including some locally, argue that the guidelines are often skewed by added penalties and fail to match a defendant’s culpability.

US Representative Lam Smith, US Senator Charles E. Grassley, and US Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. co-signed the letter to Saris urging the commission to embrace tougher penalties, citing the heinous nature of child pornography.

They also said they were disappointed to read in a Globe article Sunday that Saris herself had issued a sentence recently that fell far below sentencing guidelines, and that the judge said she found problems with the guidelines.

The letter, however, does not state that in another case, Saris handed out a 13-year sentence for a defendant convicted of child pornography.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MiltonValencia

Permanent link to this article: http://porninthevalley.com/2012/02/15/lawmakers-send-stern-message-to-sentencing-panel-on-child-porn-cases-stern-would-be-a-needle-in-their-arms/

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