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200-year sentence absurd in child pornography case

Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by cbbr, Oct 1, 2006.

  1. cbbr

    cbbr 1 ton status GMOTM Winner

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    The title of the post is the title of the article. Before you pop off, read the article. Then pop off (discuss)........

    WASHINGTON — Unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes, Morton Berger will spend the rest of his life in an Arizona prison. Maybe he deserves it. Then again, maybe not. These are the facts.

    In June 2002, Phoenix police arrested Berger on a state warrant charging him with sexual exploitation of a minor. Specifically, he was charged with possession of 20 photographs depicting, among other things, children being raped by adults, children engaging in sexual acts with other children, and children in sexual acts with animals.

    The 20 images introduced at trial were part of a large collection of pornographic images accumulated over a period of at least six years.

    A jury found Berger guilty on 20 counts of sexually exploiting children
    under the age of 15 and sentenced him to 10 years on each count, the sentences to run consecutively. Last May, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed that judgment. One justice dissented; another expressed reservations. Last month, counsel filed Berger’s appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. We will know by mid-November if the court will hear it.

    There is no question of Berger’s guilt. He emerges from the record as an almost classic “dirty old man.” There is no evidence that he himself ever engaged in distributing, exhibiting, receiving, selling, purchasing, electronically transmitting or even “exchanging” pornographic images, all of which the Arizona law forbids. He was convicted solely of “possessing” such images. He collected them.

    These facts should weigh in your calculus, for good or ill: He is 52 years old, married, a father of four, an award-winning teacher of world history. He has no criminal record of any sort. The state offered no evidence that he has ever created pornography or improperly touched a minor.

    In their appeal to the Supreme Court, his counsel rely upon a single argument: The unservable sentence violates the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. The amendment decrees that courts may not inflict “cruel and unusual punishments.” The 200-year prison sentence imposed on Berger is plainly “unusual.” At that punitive level, Arizona stands alone. Its minimum 10-year sentence for possession of a single piece of child pornography is greater than the maximum sentence for this offense in 35 states. It is equal to the maximum in nine others.

    Is the 200-year sentence also constitutionally “cruel”? Who is to say? Manifestly, the question is hypothetical, or academic. On the record, Berger is a middle-aged, dirty-minded, part-time pedophile. But also on the record, he has never physically harmed anyone. He never even bought any of this stuff. He merely downloaded it.

    In the Supreme Court of Arizona last May, Justice W. Scott Bales held that the sentence imposed on Berger must be affirmed unless it is “grossly disproportionate” to the crime. To answer that question, he said, judges must consider (1) the sentences imposed by Arizona on other crimes of comparable gravity, and (2) the sentences imposed by other states for the same crime, i.e., possession of pornography involving juveniles.

    After weighing the state’s “compelling interest” in protecting children from sexual exploitation, Justice Bales voted to affirm. Justice Rebecca White Berch, dissenting in part, had the last and most sensible word. She agreed that courts must defer to legislatures on the fixing of criminal sentences, but the Constitution prohibits sentences that are “grossly” disproportionate.

    In this instance, Arizona’s sentence for possession of pornography “is by far the longest in the nation.” It is more severe than sentences imposed in Arizona on first offenders for rape or aggravated assault.

    This is a case the high court ought to hear. Morton Berger might be a creep, but on the record he’s a pretty sad creep. The sentence is absurd.
     
  2. 4by4bygod

    4by4bygod 1/2 ton status

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    I say we end the academic portion of our discussion with a .45 round to the head, and save the money it takes to support this cretin in prison.

    So what if he just downloaded all that imagery.. it's a short step to acting it out..why take the chance? If that crap excites him, he's a very warped and evil person.. maybe in the eyes of God he can be saved, but we can arrange that meeting so God can fix him up close and personal. Our justice system does a lousy job of fixing these people.

    While I'm on the subject

    America needs to make up its freakin mind about child porn, child rape, etc.. the courts give a sentence of howevermany years to a pedophile.. he gets out, supposedly paying his debt to society.. then everyone freaks out when he moves into a neighborhood ( duh, that's where the houses are) and they want to run him out of town, give him special license plates, and otherwise mark him for life..

    either the prison terms we ascribe to child molestors mean something, or they don't.. they either rehabilitate the bad guys, or they don't..therapy either works for these people, or it doesn't..

    America can't have it both ways.. we can't keep letting the dangerous people out of prison in the name of compassion, and then violate the civil rights they're entitled to once they get out in the name of public safety.

    If we don't honestly believe prison rehabilitates these people, they either need to stay there forever, or be exterminated.

    Tom
     
  3. Z3PR

    Z3PR Banned

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    Wow, 200 years. I'm all for locking up child molesters and trowing the key away. But the following has me concerned.
    I personally think child porn is sick !!!! My concern is that the guy isn't a chiild molester, he had kiddie porn. 200 years, I'm torn on that one.
     
  4. gjk5

    gjk5 3/4 ton status

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    This is the part that bothers me. It's not that I don't find his crime disturbing or worthy of punishment but if the minimum sentence is higher than the min. for rape, that's a problem. I agree that true pedophiles are incapable of rehabilitation, but so are most true rapists. Your penalty for thinking about a crime should not be more severe than that of someone who actually follows through with it. (Aggravated assault has no bearing on this IMO, totally different than a sex crime and very much subject to interpretation)


    I think 2 years per count should be sufficient in this case anyway, he should be relatively harmless at 112. And for the record: while I am for the death penalty in some pedophile cases, posession without an actual victim directly attributable to him certainly does not warrant capital punishment.
     
  5. y5mgisi

    y5mgisi 1 ton status

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    Yes deffintly deserves punishment. But im pretty sure theres people that have killed more than two people and been out before they actually died in prison. I think if he got out when he was about 80-85 years old or somthing similer would be soficent. thats my own personal opinion.
     
  6. newyorkin

    newyorkin 1 ton status

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    The writer of the article wrote that in a deceptive and manipulative manner, as to make you feel serious injustice that a rapist will get off easier than someone with kiddie porn.

    Unless that state is severely screwed up, I'm willing to bet that someone convicted of 20 counts of rape will get a more severe sentence than someone convicted of 20 counts of child porn posession. The sentencing for 1 count of child porn compared to 1 count of rape/assault are probably a little different.

    I personally think the sentence may be a little severe. But, it is a 10 year sentence for each conviction, so in a convoluted way, it is fair. The "good" aspects of his life are certainly honorable, but IMO, they were washed away with this. Even more disturbing is that he did what child molestors do; moved himself into a position of authority over children (as a teacher). This guy was child abuse/molestation waiting to happen. It doesn't matter what the outward appearance is for a child pornographer or child molestor, almost all of them were stand up citizens in some way.
    So with that in mind, is it fair to jail a person in the effort to prevent them from committing a crime they're trending toward? I don't think it is at all. But on the other hand, I don't want my kid to be the one that this guy commits his first crime on...

    Maybe a two year sentence per count is sufficient for a crime like this. It's pretty unlikely they're going to catch one of these people with just one photo, more likely a collection, so if they knock it down to 2 years per photo, they can still do some serious punishment with available evidence.

    On a related note, before I took my current job, I worked there occasionally to help out. One of the guys that worked there turned out to be collecting child porn. Nicest guy you'd ever meet, dedicated professional, blah blah blah, and his life was completely flushed down the toilet because he was collecting child porn. He traded a pretty nice life for prison.
     
  7. kgblazerfive

    kgblazerfive keymaster Premium Member GMOTM Winner

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    What is the avg time spent in prison for murder? bet its not much more then 20 yrs. 200 yrs is excesive for having photos which is all he had, if he had done more then its not. The only thing he is guilty of is having the photos can't lump someone into a group because of what he might do.

    In no way do I support what he did or think child porn is good and statistics show he more then likely would commit more crimes. However its good he was caught now.
     
  8. TSGB

    TSGB 1 ton status

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    That's like saying it's ok to buy a heart off the black market because you didn't cut it out of the body.
     
  9. CDA 455

    CDA 455 3/4 ton status

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    I don't have a problem with it at all :haha: .

    On one hand Snoop Doggy Dog shots someone in the BACK five times and gets away with it (acquitted) :screwy: . on the other hand a guy poisons the towns 'favorite' tree and gets convicted, sentenced to ten years in prison!! And he served every minute of that ten years!!
     
  10. Resurrection_Joe

    Resurrection_Joe 1 ton status

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    Personally, I don't think he should have had jail time at all. If he was put on the offender list, he'd be watched close enough. Maybe a single 10 year.

    There's a fine line, and the pictures he had, apparently, were way over it, but they were still pictures. Disgusting yes, but in no way indicating any criminal activity.

    Note that there are innumerable sites to peruse photos of all other sorts of real crimes on the internet, as well as countless media reenactments.

    How long until one of you parents goes to prison for pictures of your kid in the bath? Having a Strurges coffee table book?

    No, it's like saying it's ok to have a picture of a heart on the black market.
     
  11. chevyfumes

    chevyfumes Court jester

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    Not very Christian of you Tom, but I do agree to some extent,and Ratch hits on some very good points. What I don't understand is how he was able to download this filth in the first place. Maybe this kind of thing is legal in other parts of the world, did I read it right that the youngest were 15.In some parts of the world I can see this as acceptable. But let me get back to the point I'm trying to make , where does child porn come from on the internet(and no I don't want any links),I understand WWW stands for world wide web but if your country is allowing discusting sexual pictures of babies then why do we allow it to happen. Certainly if this website was to be discovered in the U.S. then the feds would be all over that site busting people left and right.The world is a strange place indeed and the politics and religious aspects of life make all the more stranger...:crazy:
     
  12. Resurrection_Joe

    Resurrection_Joe 1 ton status

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    Newsgroups, P2P Programs, Russian Websites
     
  13. newyorkin

    newyorkin 1 ton status

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    But the question at hand is how much time they were sentenced to, not actual time served. Something like 25-30% of convicted murderers get a "life" sentence with no eligibility for parole, while most of the rest get sentences of specific years that they will not outlive. My bet is that more people convicted of murder will die in jail then out of jail.
    It's not possible to calculate the "Average" time spent in prison for murder because the term "murder" is already too broad, before even trying to figure out if people currently serving sentences will get out before their sentence is complete. The only way to figure that out might be to calculate the total number of prisoners with any intentional homocide conviction that were released through parole or completed sentences, and then calculate the average their actual time served. Currently serving convicts could not be counted since it's not possible to know what their time served will actually be, since they can be denied parole, they can be killed in prison, they can commit another crime in prison and get an extended sentence, etc.

    Anyway...
    Maybe he'll only spend 20 years in prison when it all shakes out. But if it's necessary to compare it to other crimes, compare it properly. :wink1:
     
  14. newyorkin

    newyorkin 1 ton status

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    Too many people are against censorship or regulation of the interweb, but I think there are laws that can allow the fed to shut down a website if it's doing something illegal, and define things as illegal.
    China is seriously censoring the internet, and they're catching a TON of flak for it (not that it matters to them what Joe Smith in a NYC Starbucks thinks).

    The authorities do go after these people producing child porn in the US where they can get them.
     
  15. gjk5

    gjk5 3/4 ton status

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    I agree Ratch, if we are talking apples to apples on the rape charge. I was just saying ten tears for rape (single count or not) was ridiculously light. And I guess also commenting on the silliness of a 200 year charge for anything, even if it's only 30% served that's a life sentence, and I definitley think the guy deserves every bit of it, it just sounds silly.

    Also think the fact that he was in a trust position with kids should be an sentence enhancer in thesecases.
     
  16. newyorkin

    newyorkin 1 ton status

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    Agreed, I knew where youwere comin from too. :thumb:
     
  17. Desert Rat

    Desert Rat Fetch the comfy chair

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    I have to admit to being somewhat incredulous as to some of the responses here. Keep in mind folks, we are talking about one of the top five most heinous crimes in the world. Murder, rape, genocide are probably the only ones I can think of off the top of my head that are worse. A few issues I see:

    1. Saying that possession of child pornography isn't that bad is sticking your head in the sand. Where do you think they get it from? Somebody has to abuse a child to make the stuff. Just like drugs, if there was no demand, there would be no supply. So, by possessing child pornography, you create a demand that needs to be filled. So, there will be at least one child brutalized for each picture taken.

    2. There are studies out the wazoo that show that there are various stages that a pedophile goes through. They start with mental fantasizing. Then they go to collecting pictures. Then they begin to hang out with kids but don't make any moves. Finally, in the last stages, they start acting out their fantasies and eventually molest a child. Not every pedophile will go through all the stages, but remember, If you don't start the first or second phase, you won't make it to the last one either.

    3. Who cares if the sentence was 200 yrs. life, or 50 years. Most pedophiles get killed in jail anyway. Even the most hardened robber, murderer, or gang banger recognizes that the last taboo we have is the robbing of a child's innocence. When prison riots start, the first place they head is the PC wing to knock off some pedos.

    There should be zero tolerance for anyone who molests, facilitates a molest, collects child porn, faciliates the production of child porn, etc. There is no excuse in the world for even collecting and fantasizing about having sex with a kid. If it were up to me, I'd impose the death sentence for intentional possession of even one picture. That means at least one child was exploited so a person could view that pick. I'd put the bullet in their brain personally.
     
  18. 4by4bygod

    4by4bygod 1/2 ton status

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    Well, when it comes to pedophiles,I'm fresh out of peace, love and understanding.

    Again, I realize right now he's only got pictures, but he wouldn't have 'em unless they fed something inside of him.. Nobody's kid needs to be his first time..

    Tom
     
  19. 4by4bygod

    4by4bygod 1/2 ton status

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    Word! :bow:
     
  20. 85 Jimmy

    85 Jimmy Sheepdog Premium Member

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    this is kinda weird, i have the same last name as him...
     

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