The Internet continues to provide a steady flow of individuals caught trying to meet underage women through that not-so-private but immensely popular medium. South Carolina sentencing of offenders on various sex offenses largely related to Internet activities took place recently in several cases in the state. The South Carolina Attorney General issued a statement summarizing the arrests and the sentences.
One man in Berkeley County pled guilty to third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He’ll register as a sex offender, and will serve a period of probation on a suspended sentence. Interestingly, the man was turned over to police by his ex-girlfriend who found purported child pornography on his computer. The reporting of child porn by immediate family or household members is a bountiful source of arrests for sex crimes.
The shock of child porn is so horrifying that even immediate family members can turn a loved one in to the authorities. From a criminal defense perspective, however, the downloading of unsought illegal material mixed in with legal erotica should always be investigated. It’s a common occurrence that could be a true defense in some cases. Also, the charge of ‘sexual exploitation of a minor,’ will always be on the man’s record, but what he actually exploited was the photograph and not the minor.
The perception of the conviction is more outrageous than what actually happened. For the record, that distinction should be argued. Defense counsel has a professional obligation to protect the accused from being stamped with a higher permanent stigma than is justified. In a few of the convictions, the men tried to meet what they supposedly thought was a minor female they had met on the Internet. That’s another common source of arrests from internet activities, which carries similar sentencing provisions.
It was a positive sign that these South Carolina cases all carried suspended sentences with probation and mandatory counseling. Long jail terms for men who didn’t commit contact sex crimes is an unwise strategy for combating these kinds of sex offenses. In some cases, prison can also be a dangerous environment, and will almost always assure that they’ll come out more criminally-minded than when they started. If the individual repeats a crime while on a suspended sentence, the prison term can however be revived.
Source: live5news.com, “Several people convicted in Internet crimes against children cases,” Ray Rivera, June 28, 2013