Criminal Justice

Judge's comments about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg's money lead to sentencing remand

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A federal appeals court is citing a trial judge’s apparent dislike of Facebook in a decision to vacate an eight-year sentence for a defendant accused of producing child pornography.

During the sentencing, Senior U.S. District Judge Warren Eginton of Connecticut stated he would have sentenced the defendant to six years in prison if not for his concerns about Facebook and the need for general deterrence, according to the March 19 summary order by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. TechDirt and the Technology & Marketing Law Blog have stories on the decision.

According to the opinion, Eginton justified his decision to impose the longer sentence by referencing “Facebook, and things like it, and society has changed.” He speculated that the proliferation of Facebook would spur an increase in child pornography, and said he hoped Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was “enjoying all his money because … he’s going to hurt a lot of people,” the appeals panel said.

Eginton’s lengthy discussion of Facebook had no clear connection to the facts of the case involving defendant Laura Culver, since she did not use the Internet to commit her crime, the appeals court said. “It is plain error for a district court to rely upon its own unsupported theory of deterrence at sentencing, especially where, as here, that theory has little application to the actual facts of the case itself,” the court said.

Culver was sentenced in January 2012, when she was 56 years old, after she pleaded guilty to one count of producing child pornography, according to a press release by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Connecticut.

The appeals court vacated the sentence and remanded for resentencing. The court said its action should not be construed to suggest that the eight-year sentence was unreasonable.

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