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House passes legislation to unshackle porno prosecutors

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WASHINGTON (BP)–The House of Representatives June 25 passed legislation designed to “unshackle prosecutors” to again pursue criminal charges against anyone found in possession of child pornography, CNSNews.com reported.

The Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act, H.R. 4623, is a direct response to the Supreme Court’s April 16 decision in the Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition case. As CNSNews.com previously reported, the court ruled 6-to-3 that the law banning “virtual child pornography” (computer-generated images depicting children who do not exist) was unconstitutionally broad and could be used to prohibit “speech” containing serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Under the ruling, federal prosecutors would have to identify and locate children used in the production of child pornography, and prove that they were under age at the time the pornography was produced in order to obtain a conviction. The Justice Department argued that — pun intended — it would be “virtually impossible” to convict child molesting pornographers under those conditions.

Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, also warned that, left unanswered, the ruling would have dire consequences.

“Child pornography is a cancer on society,” he said Tuesday. “We firmly believe that the impact of the decision in Ashcroft vs. the Free Speech Coalition will be to create a proliferation of child pornography in this country unlike anything we’ve seen in the past 25 years.”

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The chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), agreed. He said pedophile pornographers have already begun using the Supreme Court’s decision to their advantage.

“For example, a new website clearly created in response to the Supreme Court decision, proudly states, quote, ‘with the law by our side, we are embarking on a marvelous journey…’ by, quote, ‘whetting the appetites of pedophiles everywhere,'” Smith said. “This is precisely what we don’t want and the kind of activity we want to prevent.”

H.R. 4623 would make it illegal to:

— Create a computer-generated (or altered) visual depiction that appears “virtually indistinguishable” from an image of a minor engaging in specified sexually explicit conduct;

— Offer, agree, attempt, or conspire to provide, sell, receive, or purchase a visual depiction of a minor engaging in such conduct;

— Produce, distribute, receive, or possess with intent to distribute or possess a visual depiction that is, or is virtually indistinguishable from, that of a pre-pubescent child engaging in such conduct;

— Show a minor obscene material or child pornography;

— Provide obscene material, child pornography, or other material assistance to facilitate offenses against minors; or

— Employ or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct outside of the United States for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct.

The proposal defines the term “indistinguishable” to mean “virtually indistinguishable, in that the depiction is such that an ordinary person viewing the depiction would conclude that the depiction is of an actual minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.” The prohibition would not apply to drawings, cartoons, sculptures, or paintings.

The bill also specifically addresses the concern of the Supreme Court that someone might be prosecuted for possessing pornographic images of subjects that only appear to be, but are not, real children engaged in sexual acts.

“We prohibit child pornography that is ‘virtually indistinguishable’ from real,” explained Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), co-sponsor of the legislation, “but we allow an affirmative defense to show that, in fact, all of the pornography was produced using only adult actors that look like children, or only was produced using computer graphics.”

The lack of such an “affirmative defense” was cited by the court in the Ashcroft vs. Free Speech Coalition ruling.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) calls the Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act “a pedophiles worst nightmare.”

“Congress is one step closer to helping the High Court side with children over pedophiles,” he said. “Our legislation unshackles prosecutors so that they can start protecting our children once again.”

The House passed H.R. 4623 by a vote of 413 to 8, with one member of Congress voting “present,” shortly before adjourning Tuesday evening.
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Johnson is the congressional bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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