Child-porn mandatory sentence is 'unjust' for youth, US judge says in response to 2nd Circuit

A federal judge in New York is letting a federal appeals court know what he thinks of its decision to reverse his below-minimum sentence for a child pornography defendant who is 19 years old.

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein included his thoughts in an order requiring resentencing. “The effect of harsh minimum sentences in cases such as C.R.’s is, effectively, to destroy young lives unnecessarily,” he wrote. The mandatory five-year minimum is “unjust,” he said, and the case “exemplifies the sometimes unnecessary cruelty of our federal law.”

The New York Law Journal and the New York Daily News have stories; How Appealing links to the opinion (PDF) reversing Weinstein by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and to Weinstein’s response (PDF).

Weinstein didn’t identify the youth by his full name, but the 2nd Circuit did in its opinion reversing the judge’s 30-month sentence as too lenient. He is Corey Reingold, who pleaded guilty to one count of sharing child pornography through a file-sharing program called GigaTribe. Reingold had admitted downloading “a ton” of child porn during a search of his home and had also admitted to sexual conduct with a minor who is a relative, the 2nd Circuit said.

Before accepting Reingold’s guilty plea, the 2nd Circuit said, Weinstein heard from experts on adolescent brain development and child sexual abuse, and traveled with prosecutors and defense counsel to a prison facility that offers sex offender treatment. Weinstein had sentenced Reingold in a 401-page opinion that found the five-year minimum was unconstitutional.

The 2nd Circuit reversed on Thursday, finding no Eighth Amendment violation. Weinstein fired back the same day in his order.

“There is a large span in the scale of defendants subject to anti-child pornography laws, from those most culpable who produce or arrange for this filth, to the passive adolescent who saves or automatically passes on what he observed through automatic file sharing, with no mens rea as to possible harm,” Weinstein wrote. “In imposing a sentence on individuals in the latter group—with no danger of acting out—a statutorily mandated five, ten, or fifteen year sentence plus post-prison lifetime restraints on where the defendant can live or work and with whom he can associate, is so unnecessarily destructive as to evoke the dread that the sentence itself constitutes a grave injustice—a sentence shockingly divergent from the American criteria for defensible penology.”

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