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Editorial Board Slams Senate Democrats for Inaction on Child Pornography Legislation
Albuquerque, NM– Capping off another horrific week in the press for New Mexico’s Democrats, the Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board slammed Senate Democrats for refusing to pass a bipartisan bill that would have closed a dangerous loophole dealing with child pornography.
“Michael Sanchez and Senate Democrats owe an explanation. This bill was a ‘no-brainer,’ and it is essential for the Senate to act next legislative session,” said Pat Garrett, spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico.
Editorial: Lawmakers’ duty to close the kiddie porn peephole
Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
May 22, 2015
Kiddie porn is a despicable underground industry that feeds a twisted addiction to the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.
And while some pundits and the unknown multitudes of viewers worldwide – mostly male – may think that, unlike child molesters and rapists, they aren’t really hurting those children who are placed in the horrific situations (some involving animals), they are just as guilty as those who act on those impulses. Because the kiddie porn peepers’ addiction drives the makers and distributors of child porn to prey on and violate children to produce the images and videos they sell.
To say that the Internet has made the cesspool that is child pornography a complete judicial quagmire is a vast understatement, and one that has the New Mexico legislative and judicial systems looking for fixes for loopholes.
Legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Sarah Maestas Barnes and Democratic Rep. Javier Martinez, both of Albuquerque, and Republican Rep. Randal S. Crowder of Clovis, would have vastly increased penalties for child pornography convictions.
The idea was to close what new Attorney General Hector Balderas and other prosecutors considered a loophole created when the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that an ambiguity in the kiddie porn statute meant criminal charges could not be tied to the number of images in a download. Balderas, a Democrat, supported the proposed bill and has been vocal in calling for a legislative fix.
The bipartisan effort would have made each downloaded image of a child engaged in a prohibited sex act or in an exploited situation a separate charge. It passed the state House of Representatives on a unanimous vote, but the Senate failed to take it up this year after it was assigned to the Senate Public Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.
That course of events is not only irresponsible, it’s shameful.
The legislation was intended to fix a real life situation like that of Robert Hawkins who was convicted by a Portales jury of one count of possession of child pornography even though he allegedly had thousands of child porn images and videos. So he faces only up to 18 months and mandatory registration as a sex offender for a horrific crime.
Opponents of the law change say one click of a mouse and a kiddie porn pervert could face more years in prison than a child rapist, depending upon how many images came with that single download. If that’s the case, then perhaps the Legislature should consider making the penalties for child molestation and rape harsher.
Opponents of the legislation, such as the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, raise the question of manufacturing versus possession and whether amorous teens sexting each other should fall under the kiddie porn law. Under New Mexico law, downloading something from the Internet is considered production or manufacture. Sharing images would fall under distribution.
And had the Senate committee actually heard the legislation, they could have considered amendments to clear up unintended consequences.
Should underage teens be made criminals for exercising poor judgment? Should they go to jail for 39 years and be labeled sex offenders and distributors of child porn if they shared a sexted photo? That’s an issue that could have been fixed with an amendment to this year’s House-passed bill. It still should have at least been debated and voted on in the Senate.
New Mexico needs to clarify its law and close the one-click peephole loophole. The Legislature will likely get another chance in 2016. It should not drop the ball again but vote to protect children against this most vile abuse of innocence.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.