NY Appeals Court: Viewing Child Porn OK

Following Tuesday’s shocking ruling from the New York Court of Appeals that overturned a number of criminal convictions against a college professor who possessed over 30,000 images of child pornography, many across the state are dealing with feelings of fear and anger.

The unanimous decision from the court remarked that viewing child pornography on the internet does not necessarily constitute “possession,” which is a serious crime punishable by law. The court claimed that unless an individual downloads inappropriate images as saved files and/or prints them,  it cannot be proven that the person had an intent to possess pornography.

However, in the case of Marist College professor James Kent, the man possessed tens of thousands of pornographic images and admitted that he purposefully viewed a number of them, although giving the excuse that he was using them for a research project on childhood pornography. He was arrested in 2007 after a computer repair shop reported the images to authorities, which it found stored on the computer’s cache.

All webpages that are viewed by an individual are stored in the cache until they are deleted. Kent had purportedly taken his computer to the repair shop after complaining that his computer was running slowly. When workers discovered the reason as to why Kent’s computer was so bogged down with stored files, they contacted police. Kent was then charged with 143 counts of possession of child pornography and sentenced to one to three years in prison.

However, with Tuesday’s ruling that viewing pornography does not constitute possession, some of Kent’s criminal charges have been dropped and many are stirred up about the matter — for more than one reason. Not only do New Yorkers find it impermissible for those who view child pornography like Kent to receive little to no punishment, but they are also frightened that the ruling will cause the viewing of pornography to run rampant as pedophiles will assume that they will not be criminalized as long as they do not save or print any of the photos that they view.

One of the concurring judges, Victoria Graffio, even remarked that the court’s decision “will, unfortunately, lead to increased consumption of child pornography by luring new visitors who were previously dissuaded by the potential for criminal prosecution.”

Courts in Georgia and Alaska have released similar rulings.

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