House Committee Approves Stronger Penalties for Sex Offenses Against Minors

WASHINGTON – Despite pointed criticism from some lawmakers, the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved a bipartisan bill that pushes for harsher penalties for people convicted of sex offenses against minors under 12 and authorizes millions of dollars to fight Internet crimes against children. Sponsored by committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the Child Protection Act of 2012 (H.R. 6063) calls for $60 million a year until 2018 for task forces working to investigate Internet crimes against children. It also reinforces the need for the U.S. Justice Department to appoint a senior official as a national coordinator for child exploitation prevention and interdiction, a position first created by the PROTECT Our Children Act by Congress in 2008. In addition, the bill widens protections for child witnesses who may be subject to intimidation or harassment, doubles to $4 million the cap on funds available to train Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, and gives U.S. Marshals the power to issue administrative subpoenas to investigate unregistered sex offenders. Smith introduced similar legislation last year but it did not reach the full House floor for a vote.

New Report Examines the Prevalence of Sexting Among Teenagers

According to a new report published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , more than half of all respondents in a recent evaluation of teen “sexting” trends reported that they had been asked to send nude photos of themselves to other teens, with more than a quarter of the respondents stating that they had sent nude photos of themselves to other adolescents. The report, Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors, entailed a longitudinal study involving 848 high school students in seven high schools in southeast Texas. The mean age of the respondents was 15.8, with a majority of the population consisting of 10th and 11th grade students. Researchers found that 28 percent of the sample population reported having sent a nude photo of themselves via “sext” – a sexually explicit e-mail or text message, usually sent and received via a cell phone or smart phone. An additional 31 percent of the sample population said that they had asked someone to send them a sext, with 57 percent of respondents reporting that they had been asked by someone to send them a sext.

Traveling The Silk Road to the Deep Web’s Darkest Corner

Via a popular online service, cocaine, prescription pills and heroin may just be a mouse click away from reaching your child

There is a scene in Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 film Traffic in which a teenage girl says something that has become, for the most part, a generally recognized truth about high school. “For someone my age,” the character says, “it’s a lot easier to get drugs than it is to get alcohol.”

Indeed, typing the term “easier to get drugs than alcohol” into a Google search box returns more than 12,000 pages, with thousands upon thousands of Internet users stating what many parents fear – that for their children, obtaining illegal drugs is anything but a challenge. What most parents are unaware of, however, is how the Internet is potentially making it even easier for youth to obtain drugs. In the 21st century, teens do not necessarily have to seek out dealers to procure marijuana or cocaine; in fact, scoring illicit substances these days could be as simple as turning on a monitor and making a few mouse clicks. At first glance, the Silk Road – a popular online marketplace – looks like any other website; just passing by, one likely wouldn’t be able to distinguish the service from eBay, Craigslist or any of the myriad other electronic bazaars on the Internet.

Drugs, Child Pornography and Hit Men: 10 Minutes in the ‘Deep Web’

At 14 I stood chest-deep in a cold swimming pool with a scuba tank strapped to my back. The mask covering most of my face, I plunged my head below the surface in an effort to learn what it feels like to be able to breathe under water, step one in training for scuba diving certification. I looked around the pool, seeing only the legs of the instructor before I lunged upward for air. As I wiped the chlorine from my eyes the instructor asked, “what happened? Why didn’t you just breathe?”

Michigan Arrest Raises Questions About Definition of Child Porn

Today, anyone can create a video and post it on the Internet for millions to see.  But law enforcement and the courts are struggling to keep up with the innovations.  In Michigan, a 21-year-old musician Evan Emory has been charged with creating and distributing child pornography after he edited a video to make it look like an audience of children was listening to him sing a song with sexually explicit lyrics.  He than posted the video on YouTube.  If convicted, Emory could face 20 years in jail and be forced to join the sex offender registry. The first-graders were filmed while Emory performed children’s songs at the local elementary school.  After the children left, Emory taped himself singing the racy song.  He later cut the two together.  The video included a disclaimer the children, who were readily identifiable, were not present during the performance of the song. According to a story in The New York Times, reactions to the video and Emory’s arrest have been split.  Many do not believe it could be considered child pornography, although most feel the video was in poor taste. JJIE.org recently covered another case involving the digital manipulation of children’s images.  The Second Court of Appeals, in New York, upheld the conviction of a man who pasted the faces of underage girls on the naked bodies of adults.

Federal Appeals Court Rules on “Virtual” Child Porn

The Second Court of Appeals, in New York, upheld the conviction for child pornography of a man for digitally pasting the faces of underage girls on the nude bodies of adults.  The court ruled that the images altered by 50-year-old John C. Hotaling were not protected free speech under the First Amendment. Hotaling argued that no minors were injured by his actions but the three-judge panel said the girls in the images were “at risk” for psychological harm.  No evidence was found that Hotaling distributed the images. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that computer-generated images that did not involved actual minors were protected speech.  Congress responded by enacting legislation that considers any image featuring “identifiable minors” to be child pornography. According to his attorney, Hotaling plans to appeal.

Georgia Man Ordered to Pay Restitution to Child Pornography Victim

Children featured in pornographic pictures are asking for financial restitution, and they’re getting it.  The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled Friday that a Georgia man caught with child pornography must pay a girl shown in an incest video, even though he did not shoot the pictures or attack the child. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Ricky Lee McDaniel must pay $12,700 to the child who was 10 years old when her own father raped her and recorded the attack.  In a written statement the girl said that every day she knows “someone is watching the most terrifying moments of my life and taking grotesque pleasure in them”
U.S. Attorney Sally Yates calls McDaniel a “secondary abuser” who should help pay for the victim’s treatment and counseling, adding that children are re-victimized every time someone views their images. 
The New York Times profiles a similar case in Connecticut. A young woman who was molested by her uncle is asking for a total of $3.4 million in damages to be collected from everyone caught with an image of her. Her pictures have been circulating online for the last 10 years and turn up often in child porn cases.

MTV’s ‘Skins’: Kiddie Porn or Real Life for Teens?

MTV’s new hit show “Skins” is meant to push boundaries.  But the Parents Television Council is saying the show may be child pornography and they are asking Congress to investigate. The scripted show features real teenagers – ages 15 to 19 – drinking, taking drugs, and having sex.   Executives at MTV are apparently worried enough that they asked the show producers to tone down some explicit content, especially in episode #3, which is set to air on January 31, according to the New York Times. “The Today Show” takes a look at the developing controversy. Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Forsyth Investigator Educates Teens, Parents About Cyber Dangers

The United States Constitution might be the law of the land, but some of its basic provisions don’t prevail in Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Jeff Roe’s home. “In my house my two children have no Fourth Amendment rights,” quips the father of a 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. “They know that I have the right to log onto any of their email accounts at any time. I can go into their room and inspect the contents of anything that I want to at any time. A lot of parents say they don’t want to invade their children’s privacy; I say it’s called being a parent.”

That same in-your-face-style shines through in the community seminars he has conducted on the sheriff’s department’s behalf for the past four years.

Former Hall County School Bus Driver, Minister Sentenced To Six Years For Child Pornography

A former Hall County school bus driver and self-described “Patriot Preacher” will spend the next six years behind bars for distributing, receiving and possessing hundreds of images of child pornography. Senior United States District Court Judge William C. O’Kelley handed down the sentence Friday to John Cooper Spinks, 41, of Oakwood, Georgia. His punishment also includes 20 years of supervised release and a $2,000 fine. There is no parole in the federal system. “As a school bus driver, this defendant was in daily contact with the children of Hall County,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.