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Jackson Child Porn Sentences Within Norms For Federal Judges

When Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faced criticism from Republican senators over her handling of sentencings in child pornography cases, her supporters say that her choices were well within judicial guidelines and norms, the Wall Street Journal reports. Jackson handled relatively few child pornography cases, most of them offenses not involving porn production. Production of child pornography often lands a defendant in prison for greater than 20 years. By contrast, the average sentence for non-production offenses is only about eight years. Distribution and receipt of child porn are seen as much worse than mere possession for purposes of sentencing. Distribution or receipt require a five year mandatory minimum in the federal system. There is no minimum for mere possession, which gives judges wider discretion.


Jackson sentenced at least 11 defendants for non-production offenses. Often, she imposed either a five-year mandatory minimum or a sentence agreed to by prosecution and defense in a plea agreement. In cases involving possession, Jackson handed out sentences between one and four years shorter than requests from prosecutors. Her sentences were also usually shorter than sentencing guidelines would suggest. Her supporters point out that her sentences for possession were often at or above recommendations from probation officers and that it is not uncommon for judges to issue possession sentences that fall short of sentencing guidelines. A report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that federal judges issue sentences for possession shorter than suggested by the guidelines in two-thirds of cases, and that on average the sentences were two years less than the guidelines' suggestions. In Jackson's district, Washington, D.C., she was found to be at or above average in terms of harshness of sentences. Many who have analyzed her cases in context have found her decisions to be well within judicial norms, even if they do not tend to be harsh.

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