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NY bill targets child pornography viewing

ALBANY -- Former NYPD officer Martin Golden was stunned when he first heard the news that New York's highest court ruled viewing child pornography wasn't a state crime.

"It took about 16 minutes of shock, and then I recognized something had to be done," said Golden, a retired officer and the Republican state senator representing Brooklyn. "There are some things that really set off an alarm, and this definitely set off an alarm."

Twelve hours after last Tuesday's Court of Appeals decision, the New York State Legislature, which has taken years to move on some measures, had new, identical bills dealing with child pornography introduced in the Senate and Assembly.

New York's swift response is in line with what other states have done to close loopholes that have grown as technology has advanced. So far, about 15 states have changed child pornography laws to get rid of language that could result in acquittals or no arrest.

The bill, with another powerful sponsor in the Democrat-led Assembly, Brooklyn's Joseph Lentol, would make it a state crime to simply view child pornography. That would include streaming video, storing images in a "cloud" and other means that don't require downloading or saving pornography to a computer, as the current law does.

It will more closely track the federal law.

"We probably did the law at the dawn of the computer age and things have changed," Lentol said. "We have to look at some of these laws with the updates in technology."

So do other states. Significant changes were already made in Alaska, Oregon, Florida and other states after court interpretations of the laws identified loopholes, said Carolyn Atwell-Davis, director of legislative affairs for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children based in Alexandria, Va.

"Unfortunately, offenders are taking advantage of these," she said.

"The viewing of child pornography creates a demand and there is an entire industry out there of these images," she said. "When there is a demand, that requires abuse of the children to make more images."

Last week's ruling by New York's top court made national headlines and was a topic on talk radio. The court had dismissed two of several counts against a former professor after a virus scan in 2007 found 132 pornographic images. He was convicted and sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison.

Although the conviction hinged on the images he downloaded, the judges said he couldn't be held in violation of state law for images that were captured automatically in temporary files. Under current state law, browsing only shows guilty intent, not proof of the crime of possessing child pornography.

"Some affirmative action is required (printing, saving, downloading, etc.) to show that defendant in fact exercised dominion and control over the images that were on his screen," Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick said.


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