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Thomas Reedy

2001-08-12 16:40:06+00 by ebradway 1 comments

I'm surprised I haven't seen a discussion here about this issue. Thomas Reedy was sentenced to life in prison for distributing child pornography. I can't find any press that says he even was in the presence of a minor at any point. Can someone help me understand how this makes sense? I understand that we should protect our children but this looks like a serious violation of the First Amendment as well the idea that the sentence should fit the crime.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Sexual Culture ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:32:28+00 by: dhartung

Remember, ebradway, the Supreme Court remains committed to the Miller standard set in 1973 (i.e. obscenity is subject to community standards, materials lacking artistic or moral value may be deemed obscene). Miller at least allows some flexibility, and in practice a LOT of flexibility. In New York v. Ferber (1982), however, they ruled that child pornography is by definition obscene and NOT entitled to First Amendment protections. Very little has changed since then (and few would argue the court has become more liberal in the interim). Criminalizing of possession was upheld in 1990, for instance.


The current arguments before the Supreme Court (this fall session) regarding the COPA (Children's Online Protection Act) regards not the legality of child pornography laws per se, but the legality of their application to virtual images.


The courts have so far been very skeptical of multiple legal attempts to ban adult access to pornography simply on the excuse that children might see it. In terms of the child pornography laws, they've been very strict that the harm to children allows extraordinary government actions against producers and by extension distributors, e.g. eliminating the "market" will de-incentivize the producers to harm children. (I'm not certain that monetary gain is their primary motivation, myself.) In the Reedy case this reasoning clearly continues to apply, though I'm rather astonished that this crime is apparently much worse than many murders. Then again, there are a lot of crimes that are worse than murder these days.

The COPA case will put the "harm to children" test right up against the Miller test, and I don't know that anyone has a clue how this court will rule.

(Though it's interesting that the rumors of O'Connor's resignation haven't held up. Supposedly she wanted to quit under a GOP president, and they coordinate resignations by custom, so it looks like no changes except by unexpected death until the next term.)