Attacks on Judge Jackson’s Record on Child Sexual Abuse Cases Are Misleading

In his Twitter thread, Mr. Hawley also highlighted remarks Judge Jackson had made during a commission hearing about “less serious” offenders and those who collect material of child sexual abuse to “find status in their participation in the community.” These remarks, Mr. Hawley suggested, showcased her “troubling views.”

But these quotations came from follow-up questions Judge Jackson asked of expert witnesses, who had spoken of different motivations that collectors of child exploitation imagery might have.

One expert had distinguished between “less-serious offenders” and those who more actively share images, encourage consumption and mask their usage. Another had spoken in the hearing about “socially inadequate people” who collect such material to “gain some status from actually having certain images” and share them “within a community online.”

In her questions to the witnesses, Judge Jackson said she was “surprised at some testimony with respect to the motivations of offenders,” asking whether some “less-serious offenders” were more interested in the technological or social aspects, and about the size of each category of offenders.

Ms. Blackburn also took Judge Jackson’s comments out of context. In response to an expert’s testimony about the definition of a pedophile, Judge Jackson asked about the “category of nonpedophiles who obtain child pornography” and said that she had been mistaken to assume that those who possess such material are pedophiles. (The expert, Dr. Gene G. Abel, clarified that it is rare for someone who collects such images to not look at them, but that anyone who collects over six months meets the definition of a pedophile.)

Additionally, Mr. Hawley and Ms. Blackburn both highlighted Judge Jackson’s record for imposing lighter sentences than the federal guideline recommendation. But this is not out of the ordinary for judges. And of the nine cases the lawmakers cited, prosecutors also sought shorter sentences than were recommended in five, according to a review by Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University.

Moreover, as the Sentencing Commission noted in a 2021 report, just 30 percent of offenders who possess or share such material received a sentence within the guideline range in the 2019 fiscal year, and 59 percent received a sentence below the guideline range.


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