Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Professor Accused of Viewing Child Pornography on Flight

This news story would make one of those dumb criminals lists if it were not so awful:
A University of Utah professor pleaded not guilty today in an East Boston courtroom to charges that he viewed child pornography on his laptop while flying from Salt Lake City to Boston.
What could account for this professor's behavior?  Stupidity?  Compulsiveness?  Arrogance?  An unconscious desire to get caught?

However, this is the part of the article that caught my attention:
Prosecutor Erik Bennett said that a passenger seated behind Smith’s first-class seat on the Delta flight on Saturday took a picture of what Smith was doing and sent a text message to his son with the picture, asking him to contact Massachusetts police.
Given how broadly child pornography laws are written, it seems that the passenger and his son probably broke the law.  Crazy, isn't it?  By looking at the professor's laptop, the passenger is guilty of viewing child pornography.  Since he took a picture of the picture on the laptop, he is also guilty of producing child pornography.  Since he sent it to his son, he is also guilty of disseminating child pornography.  The son likewise is guilty of receiving -- and viewing -- child pornography.  Crazy.

Obviously, the Boston police have no intention of arresting these good Samaritans.  But, how many people may find themselves in a similar situation, and they do not get involved because they do not want the authorities to falsely accuse them of somehow being involved in the crime?  In this way, poorly written laws fail to protect children because the laws scare away people who might come forward and report crimes against children.

The abuse of children is a terrible evil.  However, laws meant to protect children are often haphazardly written.  Consequently, the laws often do a very poor job of protecting children.  Perhaps one good thing that can come out of the recent attention on child sexual abuse is that we will give these laws a thorough going-over with an eye toward improving them.  Such a review is already under way in Pennsylvania, where legislators are looking at improving the child abuse reporting law.

See the original article here: