Ask a Cop


Illustration: Sean Hennefer

Dear Cop,
My friends and I were talking about anti-pornography laws, and one of them mentioned that just possessing child pornography constitutes a crime. So if someone sends you a text that includes child pornography and even sexts sent between minors, those people could be charged with violating a federal law. I’ve read the law (18 USC 2252), but I’m still wondering: it looks like even if you report an image that you received accidentally or without soliciting, you could still be charged with possession (though you’d probably win in court). My question is whether, as a cop, you’ve seen someone in that situation be charged with possession of child pornography? If one day I (or my child) receives an unsolicited image of child pornography, what should I do?
I Don’t Like Kids That Way

Dear Child Protector,
Believe me, I’m no expert in violent child sex assaults. I know murder, drugs, gangs and first-responder type 911 crimes. So, I did some research and consulted experts related to your question. I consider your question in the Top Five that I’ve ever received–– and its extremely relevant, given Utah’s First Lady’s recent defense of a violent child sex offenders (City Weekly Blog, Dec. 13, 2012, “Jeanette Herbert, Ryan Johnson”), so I’ve dedicated more time to your response.

I’m told that “child pornography” is a misnomer. Many people know and enjoy legal, consenting, “adult pornography.” However, the moment it involves a juvenile, or, God forbid, a child or infant, it’s no longer pornography. That’s violent sex assault against a child. It should be called “violent child sex assault images.” And, if you think someone who forces or manipulates an underage person into sexual acts isn’t just as (or more) evil than any murderer, drug dealer or gangster I’ve ever dealt with, then you are a sicker fuck than any of my regular criminals. And I don’t mean “you” who asked, I mean “you” reading this. You know who you are.

Accidentally received an image? I researched the law you quoted, and it indicated a threshold of three images. You might have accidentally received one or even two images of a small child, infant, juvenile, kid, or whatever being sexually assaulted by an adult, but once you start “accidentally” receiving more, you’re a violent sex offender of children. And don’t think about sharing those images: If you pass them on, you are not just a sicko purveyor of violent sexual assaults of children, you are also a sicko distributor. It’s the difference between drug users/dealers, pre-meditated murder/crime of passion or DUI/intentionally running someone over, and that’s a big difference.

Luckily, reasonable people (unlike the person I indicated) know how truly wacko and sick these monsters are. I Googled the topic and learned about the Butner study, all the pros and cons. What I gleaned as a reasonable, normal human is that freaks who seek out or share images depicting the sexual assault of children to gratify their peckers are much more likely than a normal person to actually “hands on” sexually assault a child. I also learned about McNeil Island in Washington State, which houses violent sex offenders who have completed their sentences. Even if a sex-offender freak completes his prison time, he can be confined to the island “indefinitely” due to the likelihood of re-offending.

Folks, we’re not talking drugs or robbery here. We are talking about an adult violently, sexually victimizing the most innocent people of all—our children. That is true and pure evil. I’m told the average incident prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City involves thousands of images depicting the sexual abuse of a child. If you ever receive one of these photos, immediately call the FBI. You’ll be safe per the statute, and you’ll help put away a violent, child-sex-assaulting freak.

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