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Tougher child porn measure nears vote

Date: March 10, 2008
Source: Buffalonews.com
By: Susan Schulman

New York State would toughen penalties against child pornography crimes — in some cases using laws aimed at organized crime — under legislation the State Senate is expected to approve early this week.

The bill, introduced in January by State Sen. Dale M. Volker, RDepew, covers a variety of child exploitation issues, from possession and production of child pornography, to the presentation of Internet evidence in court. It also would offer counseling and “safe haven” services for exploited children. Volker had held a public hearing in Buffalo, featuring witnesses from throughout the country, in response to a series published in The Buffalo News, “The Child Porn Pipeline,” that explained the explosion of child pornography on the Internet.

The bill also would toughen child prostitution laws.

In the Assembly, the Democratic majority was reviewing the proposal.

“I intend to have my staff carefully look at the bill. There may be something we can do,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol, D-Brooklyn, Volker’s Assembly counterpart.

But Lentol also noted that some of the provisions in Volker’s bill “don’t sound unreasonable to me.”

Volker, who heads the Senate Codes Committee, said he doesn’t expect the Assembly to enact all aspects of his bill, but he’s optimistic that the Democratic-controlled body will vote on the proposals in some form later in the session, possibly when a second public hearing is conducted in New York City in the spring.

“Something will pass,” Volker said. “This is way too serious. The New York police are telling us it’s clear to them organized crime is getting involved in pornography.

“They want the power to use the Organized Crime task force and the powers of the [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations] Act.”

Under the Senate bill, some child pornography and child prostitution cases could be prosecuted as “enterprise corruption” if authorities believe organized crime was involved.

The bill also would:

Increase penalties for production and distribution of child pornography, sometimes to the level of a violent felony, with the strongest sentences for cases involving children under 11, or those in which parents sexually exploited their own children.

Increase penalties, under a system similar to the one the federal government uses, for those possessing multiple child pornography images. The more images and the younger the children, the stiffer the sentence.

Allow administrative warrants from district attorneys or the state attorney general if a judge is not immediately available when an investigation into an Internet crime finds a child’s life is in immediate danger.

Increase penalties for trying to remove material from a computer during a known investigation into the contents of that computer.

Require Internet providers to retain records for a yet-to-be specified time period when requested by authorities.

Expand laws covering the luring of children for the purpose of sex offense and child pornography to include use of telephones or electronic communication devices.

Encourage counties to provide safe haven for sexually exploited children.

While Volker’s bill is expected to get Senate approval this week, the Senate last month passed legislation proposed by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo aimed at keeping sexual predators off social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook.

The bill recently was endorsed by the Western New York legislative delegation, according to Cuomo’s office, and is now being reviewed in the Assembly. Staff in Cuomo’s office say they hope the Assembly will approve that bill next week.


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