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Tougher porn lawsare needed in N.C.

By Staff
Until North Carolina adopts tougher laws against pedophiles, prosecutors are using federal legislation to put the guilty behind bars.
Investigators in Harnett County discovered 228 video clips and 124 still photos of child pornography — including some involving a toddler — on Christopher Paul Brady’s computer. In state court, the 31-year-old Brady received three years of supervised probation, according to an Associated Press report.
Assistant District Attorney Mary Wilson said that was the most the state could get. Possession of child pornography for a first-time offender under N.C. law carries no active prison time, but under federal law can be up to 10 years.
And that’s what happened. Federal prosecutors stepped in and charged the Lillington man with trafficking in child pornography. After being convicted, Brady was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.
Federal and state laws differ. Under federal law, it is illegal to send an e-mail containing child porn to a person in the same state if the computer server for that e-mail is located in a different state.
Chief Deputy Harry Meredith with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office said “any crimes dealing with children whether on the Internet or not should have stiffer penalties.” He said because technology is advancing so quickly, “its hard for the laws to keep up, but we’re getting there.”
Attorney General Roy Cooper said the definition of child pornography under N.C. law needs to match the stricter federal standard and that state prosecutors should be allowed to use an investigative grand jury to uncover and prosecute child sexual exploitation.
Columbus County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Alsup handles pornography cases. She said state law doesn’t attack the problem as it should.
A total of 252 incidents of child sexual exploitation in North Carolina were reported in 2005, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A total of 407 incidents were reported in 2006, as of Dec. 7.
On a national level, it’s worse. FBI statistics show child pornography and exploitation cases increased nationally from 113 in 1996 to 2,135 in 2005 and prosecutors have seen a similar increase in cases coming to court — from 344 in 1995 to 1,576 in 2005.
Cooper said child predators are “increasingly aggressive” because “the Internet allows them to search for victims easily and anonymously.”
Cooper is also trying to ramp up a Web site to map the locations of the state’s sex offenders. More than 10,000 convicted sex offenders live in the state, and many share pornographic images of children with each other, according to Cooper’s report. A total of 45 convicted sex offenders are registered in Beaufort County, as of Dec. 19.
Cooper suggests the state strengthen the penalty for possession, distribution and production of child pornography. The state Legislature convenes Jan. 24. One task it needs to do is to seek tougher penalties for child pornography charges. State law currently gives prison time to people who make child pornography, but a special legislative committee recommended tougher sentences.
We would agree.