Guidelines

I had trouble sleeping as usual, so I thought I’d write. A few days ago, I braved the snow and ice to meet with my lawyer and go over the presentence report. A presentence report is prepared by a parole officer for the judge assigned to sentencing and includes information pertaining to the offense; the defendant’s educational, professional, financial, criminal, and family background; and sentencing recommendations.

When I sat down in my lawyer’s office, he began by saying “it’s as bad as it could be.”

Actually, this wasn’t a surprise. We had discussed the sentencing guidelines before and knew the odds were not in my favor.

Sentencing guidelines are calculated using a point system and are intended to help judges determine the punishment for an offense. The base level for receipt of child pornography is 22. From here, points can be either added or subtracted based on certain characteristics of the crime. The more points, the harsher the punishment.

If any of the images or videos depict minors under the age of 12, two points are added to the base offense.

If the material was transported in the expectation of receiving something of value (additional child pornography), five more points are added. Peer-to-peer file sharing falls into this category.

If the material contains bondage or other sadistic acts, add four points.

If the offense involved the use of a computer, add two points.

If the offense involved more than 600 images (videos are considered to be worth 75 images each), add five points.

For accepting responsibility, cooperating with police, and taking the plea bargain, three points are subtracted for a total offense level of 37. There are a few other categories that don’t apply to my offense such as “adjustment for obstruction of justice.”

Following the calculated offense level, the report reads:

Based on a Criminal History Category of I and a Total Offense Level of 37, the Guideline Imprisonment Range is 210 to 262 months. However, since the maximum of the guideline range is greater that the statutorily authorized maximum sentence of 20 years, the Guideline Imprisonment Range becomes 210 to 240 months.

My lawyer said that despite what people may think about federal judges, they don’t like playing God, and many don’t care to expend any time delving into a defendant’s psyche. Most judges therefore are content with upholding the guidelines, but the better judges may decide for themselves whether the punishment fits the crime.

I take full responsibility for what I did and will gladly pay my debt to society. That said, the guidelines for child pornography are arbitrary, unjust, and just plain stupid. They are the instruments in which the politicians who created them use as means for reelection.

20 years in prison for looking at pictures? Meanwhile, there’s a sex offender living in my neighborhood who just served three years in prison for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl.

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