Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
NOVEMBER 6, 2011 7:06AM

SENTENCED TO LIFE for Viewing Child-Porn on His Home PC

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Greg Kahn/Staff Daniel Guevara Vilca, center, who was found guilty of 454 counts of possessing child pornography, listens to arguments by his attorney Lee Hollander about giving a sentence less than the minimal guidelines on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011. Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt  sentenced Vilca to 454 concurrent life sentences.     

     Unlike numbers of progressives I know, I don't have any faith that there's a therapy (pills, talk, any combination thereof) that can change child rapists and molesters to the point where we may trust them to be out here among our kids. Given the dismal recidivism rates (well over 90% in a variety of studies), I see no upside in any solution less than a life term. And yet while we know that a good number of child rapists and molesters do indulge in pornography, there's a significant difference between the simple possession of child-pornography and selling it and, of course, between possessing it and actual contact. The assumption that there's an almost inevitable, automatic move (pornography screen-interest or -obsession to contact-crimes) is not borne out by the evidence. So, when I read Erica Good's piece in Saturday's NYT about a man sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for having child-porn on his computer, I was, as were many in the legal and civil liberties communities, taken aback.

     Twenty-six year-old Floridian Daniel Vilca has been sentenced to life for having downloaded and possessing on his personal computer pornographic images of children. Mr. Vilca had no sex-crimes record; in fact he had no criminal record whatever. His conviction was not for selling or distributing pornography and he was not charged with those crimes. The sole crime for which he was indicted and convicted (and now sentenced) was for viewing child pornography.
     What the sentencing judge, Fred Hardt, has done in Mr. Vilca's case is to conflate the simple watching of images on a personal computer with crimes that at times can be preceded by viewing pornography and he's done this in the absence of any evidence that Mr. Vilca ever made a single attempt to contact a child. The D.A. introduced nothing at trial to suggest that Mr. Vilca ever approached or had contact with a child. The authorities could have chosen to go after the online share-site from which Mr. Vaca downloaded the pictures. They didn't.
     Odd, of course, is that Mr. Avila's sentence is for a crime that usually results in far lighter terms than for actual contact-sex crimes. Florida categorizes possession of child pornography as a third-degree felony, punishable, Ms. Goode notes, by up to five years in prison. Because Mr. Vilca's computer was home to 454 images, the judge extrapolated and gave him Life. (Mr. Vilca's lawyer will appeal his sentence but it is not assured that his term will be cut.)
     The situation's rife with questions. Among mine:
          Is a Life Sentence ever justified simply for viewing child pornography when we know that most convicted killers do not get sentenced either to die nor to spend the balance of their lives in prison?

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Do you think such a sentence can be justified? If so, do we need to re-thing sentences for other crimes? If no, what might be a more reasonable term in prison?
With todays childlike women-(no hair, skinny, flat), and such reality as "Toddlers in tiara" I'm not entirely sure how one tells if someone in a picture is "a Child". There again, I make a distinction between "Sex crimes" involving 2 juveniles or prepubescent children. That said, what sex is a collection of pixels making up a digital image? You don't kill a dog because he MIGHT kill sheep. I would say this is idiotic, but unfortunately, it's just business as usual in our bureaucratic system of legalisms ( I'm not going to dignify it with the term "Justice" ) (See why we don't trust government- and neither did the founding fathers) -

In light of my thought that the world would be a better place if people asked themselves WWBBD?, Aside from massive publicity and "shaming" of the judge, it occurs to me that the officers of the court have immunity for their actions, but it is qualified by proof of malice or malfeasance. This is such an egregious violation of the first amendment that it might be worth pursuing the thought that, as in Nuremberg "I was just following Precedent" is not an excuse for depraved indifference, or perhaps using his position too make a personal political "statement". Hopefully this will be overturned on appeal.
Token to my knowledge, no one has challenged the Florida child-porn possession statute on First Amendment grounds. That, I sy=uppose could happen. What I think will likely be overturned is this man's sentence long before a challenge to the underlying law goes forward.
Certainly seems excessive. Did Avila not have a lawyer to make the case you did, Jonathan?
Jerry he did and yet the judge decided to do simple multiplication in order to create a simplistic sentence: 5 years for one child-porn pic is the Florida sentencing standard, so the judge multiplied by 454 and got Life.
olly I know I am a very bad person and so I wonder if the defendant were not Hispanic would this have happened. No way to know. I do wonder, though.
I am rapidly becoming fond of the exile sentence. Put them off shore and give them a knife and some seeds and such in some remote location. They can't harm anyone there but each other.

On the topic at hand, it is a little difficult to say. The knee jerk part of my mind says sure, why not put him away on the chance he may do harm if he hasn't already. On the other hand it is actions that make the crime and the images in question are the mitigating factor. What type of pornography are we talking about? Nude pictures of children or hardcore abuse? Did he seek out 454 individual images or did they count each image file as pornography? I just cannot say what to do. In this case I doubt that such a harsh sentence could stand the appeal process. He didn't make the images and anyone who has surfed the internet knows, links are often not what they would seem to be.
Bobot interesting points and I agree that the sentence won't likely survive appeal(s).
And justice for all, justice for all, justice for all...

Is that the boy in the picture?

Child porn is bad. You could say that buying it creates a demand for persons who make it, and those folks deserve the life sentence. Then you have to ask if this young man would have committed the acts if they weren't available to view and fantasize. But you can't prosecute for thoughts. A few years in therapy are called for. Not sure what prison sentence is appropriate.
Phyllis I like your reply bc it so sharply pinpoints the conflicting senses we all have over issues like this.
And, yes, that's Mr. Vilca in the photo.
Seems harsh, very harsh…but strangely enough, I can see both sides of the case.

Creating a demand for child porn is every bit as a much of the child porn problem (industry, if you must)…and there are very few things as disgusting as kids being forced into something that will cause regret for the rest of their lives.

I guess if one could feel comfortable with an extremely severe sentence for people who create child porn as a means to make money…one should not feel extraordinarily uncomfortable with a severe sentence for people who help create a demand for it.

I do agree that attempts should be made to rehabilitate people convicted of crimes in this area.
Frank I can see your points and I still have to ask if we should sentence this fellow more harshly than we sentence the great majority of killers?
That young man will most likely be raped and possibly murdered in prison. This is certainly a case which could set a dangerous precedent. Anyone could find themselves in a similar position if porn was to be downloaded onto their computer. Who is to say if he downloaded it? Is the crime the downloading or the reading? There are so many "ifs" involved. Certainly a way to get rid of your friends...just get to their computer and download smut. Really, really, complicated.
Crap, Jon! You're making it hard for a Sunday morning!

First of all he had 454 pornographic images of CHILDREN! Each child in each image was gravely hurt mentally, spiritually and quite probably physically. By possessing those images he was complicit in that harm. The fact that he didn't physically lay hands on them is immaterial. It is no different than being an accomplish after the fact in murder (and with what often happens to these kids he may well be that too).

Secondly, that he had no prior record is immaterial. That just means he was never caught. You don't amass that amount of child porn on a whim or as a passing interest.

Next, the judge had no choice. He was bound by the sentencing guidelines. Additionally, the dude turned down a pretrial offer of 25 years and CHOSE to roll the dice with his life.

Lastly, he is 26 y.o. He's not some dumb kid. He's an adult who committed a heinous crime.

Now, the facts of the matter is - does the penalty fit the crime? Is it cruel or unusual punishment?

It's unusual because they let WAY too many of these bastards off easy. The cruelty part is nothing compared to the cruelty he and every other enabler & customer of professional child abuse purveyed upon those poor kids.

When's hat said, do I think life in prison is too extreme? Yes, I do. Would I change his sentence? Nope! That's because we both know he'll be paroled in less than 30 years which to me is too light of a sentence.

Bottom line, Jon - as liberal as you know I am, I still believe that hurting kids is the MOST vile act of all and deserves the most vile punishment. (he can be rehabilitated when he gets out in 30 years!)

Oh, and Token? Your comment was sexist beyond belief. So for all of us chicks that don't look like some chauvinist pigs ideal cloning of Tammy Fae Baker and freakin barbie I just want to tell you to screw off, K?
Sounds like this judge wants to bury the guy under the jail and let his remains be released to the remainder of his family in about 2200 years... assuming of course us humans haven't exterminated one another by then.
Ande the IFs are why I find this discussion-worthy.
Amy there are so many counter-currents in this case. The quetion I keep comning back to whether or not we should sentence this man to Life when we don't do that to most killers. I also have a sense--and I could be wrong--that the judge may not have delevered such a sentence if this man were white and upper-middle class. I just don't know.
Mrs assuming... ... ....
As a gay man who looks at internet pornography, this is one of my greatest fears. One never knows what one is "downloading" on the internet. So called pop up's are all over the place. Ever turn off your browser, only to find a number of windows you did not even know were open--pop-ups. Unfortunately under the law "downloading" simply means the act of having an image on your computer. Anytime you surf the internet, you are unintentionally downloading stuff to your computer, where it lies in wait for anyone who understands how this stuff actually works, to unearth it and display it for the world to see! Beware, everyone who surfs the internet, downloads tons of stuff they are totally unaware of!
Jon, he was sentences in accordance with the statutes. The judge didn't just pull this sentence out of his hat. He used the state mandated score sheet and came up with a MINIMUM sentence of 152 years.

Now let's look at that number. By my math that equates to about 4 months for each count. Figuring he'll be paroled that's reduced to a little over THREE WEEKS. The fact that he was convicted on 454 counts doesn't earn him a freaking bulk discount. In fact it should go the OTHER way around.
Kenny you've made a terrific point here. Thank you.
Amy what Judge Hardt did was multiply 5 (years for each count) by 454 (number of pictures and got 2,260 years, of a Life Sentence.
I agree that the propriety of how the judge did this is debatable and there can be good arguments for what the judge did and how he did it. I still have the question: Do we want to sentence guys like Mr. Vilca to more years than we sentence most killers? I don't think that's so simple to answer.
Ok, since I live in Florida. Perhaps I can enlighten those of you who are not familiar with Florida laws.

In the case of how many counts of posession he was charged. Each image counts as one count! Each image can simply be a thumbnail, that was on his browser. Are you all aware what a thumbnail is? It is an image that has a link to something else. When browsing you will pass hundreds, sometimes thousands of thumbnails. Although you may not click on any of them, they are still there in your browser. A computer nerd, can easily retrieve any or all of these to see what you have been looking at. When viewing internet porn, it is usually presented in thumbnail format. If there are forty pages of thumbnails on a site, just figure out how many images that is. Unfortunately, the safest route is not to view the stuff at all. Now in the case of a curious teenager, or a dirty old man ( or woman Amy ) Do you really think that will be the choice?
Florida laws also, go according to county. Some counties have harsher laws than others. In Polk county for instance, you have a sheriff who thinks every gay person, every pot smoker, every person who does not think as he does ( bible banger ) should be locked up. I don't mention his name, for fear of the fact that he is notorious for running vendettas against anyone who accuses him of any wrongdoing. He has personally run a crusade against Craigs List, because CL allows personals ads that are sometimes actually "prostitutes". He also has a zero tolerance policy for drug users, no matter how trivial the instance.
We now live in the world of "Big Brother", we all need to realize he is watching us, wherever we may dare to go!
That looking at pictures, no matter what the pictures may be, is considered a felony worthy of any sentence at all strikes me as total insanity. The judge, for one, should be committed to an institution for the mentally limited unless he indicates a t least some progress in basic intellect.
Safe Bet - does "no possibility of parole" not mean just that? Also, he may be 26, but he looks like a child (FWIW). I wonder if there was any evidence as to his mental age...

Kenny has a good point. When I first got a computer porn magically appeared...and sometimes it was hard to get rid of it. (Thank goodness that doesn't happen any more...)

And Ande too - what an apparently easy way to screw somebody.

And, Jonathan, the idea that this guy got a tougher sentence than some murderers and other perpetrators of violent crime is ridiculous. Yes, people who look at child porn at supporting a violent industry, but still that's a lesser horror than actually producing the stuff. (We, the general populace, hardly even bother looking at the images of death and destruction done to populations who did nothing to us, said d&d being done in our name and directly supported by our taxes. Tho I guess that's really too much of a diversion.)

There was a case in Canada whereby some guy argued (and won, I believe) that his child porn, which consisted of drawings and writings of his own hand, were protected as free speech. But that sort of thing isn't likely to satisfy most perps.

At any rate, I think that if the official penalty is up to five years, then that's what this guy should have got - this 5 X 454 is ridiculous.
Kenny Thanks again for this info. :)
Jan as I said in this thread, no one, apparently, has challenged the underlying law on First Amendment grounds.
Myriad I think what you're arguing is what his attys will argue, on appeal.
You're pretty gutsy for taking on such a controversial subject. First I want to say I agree with you about rehabilitating child molesters and rapists. Currently, there doesn't seem to be anything that works, from what I know about the subject. It's frightening because it seems to be so commonplace. Teachers, neighbors, other parents. There's no way to tell. Are people born this way or can these tendencies be changed if they're somehow able to be identified early on? That's another post I guess.

But to answer to your question about the life sentence for viewing child porn: It's wrong. Non-justifiable. The guy had no history of trying to contact kids, as you pointed out. They didn't go after the sharing site which would have been the logical thing to do if they were so worried about the safety of children.

And I don't think it has anything to do with the guy's ethnicity. I wonder about this judge. Is he up for re-election? What's his sentencing record like for other similar crimes? Does he always hand out sentences with a no-thought, knee-jerk reaction like this? Yes there is something wrong with Mr. Vilca. But prison isn't going to help him or change anything! He's only one of thousands, maybe lots more than that.

I have four kids of my own. I do not take child pornography lightly. It's a horrifically malignant thing that I just can't wrap my mind around. But I still say the sentence in this case did not fit the crime and raises serious questions.
Margaret Thanks.
I have not seen anything on this judge's sentencing trends. His name's in this piece, above.
Excellent post, Jonathan. One man alone at home, taking himself down the wrong path, living in a culture that is unable to stop the tidal waves of "illegal images" that are a click away, gets life, but bankers who ruin millions of lives with clearly-defined and deliberate crimes get grotesque bonuses and a free pass. What is obscene?
Greg Thank you, bc that's precisely the Q I am trying to raise here: What's obscene and do we/should we/how should we handle all of this under law?
Come on, Kenny! We're talking child pornography here not browsing your normal porn site. Hell, I browse porn sites too (backwoods Iowa ain't exactly your Mecca of lesbian night spots). You've seen at the bottom of every last one of them that verification that everyone is over 18 y.o. You don't just "accidently" happen upon sites that offer otherwise.

Besides, I don't care if it was only one image that he purposely downloaded (much less four hundred and fifty freakin four!). By downloading that single image he irrevocable damaged a child. THAT for what he should be locked away for a LONG time.

@ Jon: Sorry about being a comment pig, but this is WAY close to my heart.

In answer to your (implied??) question: His sentence was just. It is the too short sentences of the other rat bastards who harm children that are too short. As to him being Hispanic having a bearing? I don't know. All I do know is he was sentenced according to the statues.

BTW, I can find no reference to the "5 year / count" you mentioned. All I've been able to find is the 152 number. Could you please cite or PM me your source?
Bull crap, NeilPaul!

"Overall, follow-up studies typically find sexual recidivism rates of 10%-15% after five years, 20% after 10 years, and 30%-40% after 20 years (see, Hanson, Morton, & Harris, 2003)."
Amy all you need do is put Mr. Vilca's name in Google and you'll fast see that there were 454 pictures on his computer and that the judge gave him 5 yrs for each one.
Neil I think Amy's on it as to recidivism.
Rum that our puters are too open to malicious behavior by others is, yes, an issue, tho Mr. Vilca has not claimed his downloads were any kind of a trick.
Once again, I apologize JW. It's just that as a child who was subjected to sexual abuse, I have studied the subject and made myself knowlegeable. People who are making unfounded, baseless and inaccurate conjectures are pissing me off. I'll go away now.
Amy you needn't go away.
You bring to this thread a raw honesty based on sad and awful experience. I appreciate. that you're sharing it here.
The logic seems to be that looking at child porn is definite proof the viewer will assault a child. Which is, a reasonable offense requiring strong law enforcement.
By that logic, any viewer of films or photos showing a bank robbery, a murder, any violence against anybody, someone planning assassinations, treason, use of illegal drugs, rape,etc. should be prosecuted for these crimes.
And, of course, that would wipe out all ads for women's underwear.
Jan recall Phil Och's number in which he suggests that those who want to rid society of all these images should really go after the Sunday New York Times (for its Maidenform ads back then)?
If there was no demand, there would be no supply. Sadly, a lot of the kids involved with this horror aren't even old enough to understand what is happening to them. Then there are the runaways/castouts/low self esteemers that are desperate for money, attention or love that the vultures feed into and exploit.

This young man appears not to be a casual porn viewer, but who can really say what his intentions are/were. In the privacy of his own home (or did he live with mom and dad?) he looked at pictures/videos online that in my own humble opinion are prelude to "hands on" child porn, and is abominable. Adults watching adult porn, which I as an individual do not care for, is a matter of choice and taste.

Mr. Avila may end up raped or worse in prison, but perhaps the guys that might do it to him feel that gang rape is just like watching child porn.

Jon, once again you gave us a wake up call, without coffee. Is that a punishable crime somewhere?

R from my heart
Adel when espresso's declared illegal I am in one hell of a lot of trouble.
"Come on, Kenny! We're talking child pornography here not browsing your normal porn site. Hell, I browse porn sites too (backwoods Iowa ain't exactly your Mecca of lesbian night spots).

Hmm Amy,
I would suggest you make friends with a computer nerd who can show you just what's there on your computer! If you have browsed any of these sites, you might well be surprised just what is lurking there. I had my preffered sites that I always thought were safe from that sort of thin. One which many friends here in Florida recommended was "Gay Tube". Well just fyi, while browsing for "Bears"( if you are familiar with the term ) I was horrified to find at least five thumbnails with faces that neither looked like bears or even adult men! I immediately stopped browsing, but the fact is I was on that site, and those images are now somewhere on my computer!
Forced prostitution is a crime and so we have to get hold of the souteneurs first.
The young man in the picture does not look mature; he might enjoy the child pornography on a child level.
Jonathan,first reading it without comments,I also had the idea of someone being used as a scapegoat again like Troy Davis,being Black.
Ande,Kenny,good points,
and Jan,clever and interesting.
Jonathan,do you see a chance of intervening in this case?
I am sorry for this young boy,mature by official age yet immature in his brain.
I also need to add, that that "over 18" disclaimer means nothing! Almost every porn site has that posted even ones from out of the country that obviously cater to pedophiles!
Ask any sheriff in Florida, whether they use that as a filter!

Wolfman, sorry for making your post into a war of words.
Heidi no one here has legal-standing to intervene in this case but I am sure his own lawyers are appealing his sentence.
Kenny i knew this would garner strong opinions.
Jonathan,I go to hell with you for an espresso.
Are you clever enough to get us out again?
It's no fun having to deal with the devil and the purgatorial fire.
@ Kenny: there were over 300 separate, EXPLICIT pornographic images of children on his computer. There was also over 38 FREAKIN HOURS of explicit child ponography video. You don't get that from "ooop, I clicked on something I shouldn't have".

@ Jan: Seriously? Bank robbery visions being equal to child pornography? Really????

Each and every one of those CHILDREN had, at BEST, had statutory rape committed against them. MANY of them are drugged and physically raped. They are CHILDREN! They have no say. They are ALL forced one way or another.

By watching child pornography you are implicit in their rape. You are an accomplice after the fact. You are an aider and abettor to child rapists. To say otherwise is rediculous
heidi hell was made for provocateurs like me or maybe heaven
I think that is over-kill. Just keep filling up those jails while others walk free....
note: I'd say that Amy's right in that voyers are complicit in the child-exploitation and at the same time the law doesn't, now, say that mr vilca is complicit in their sexual abuse...the judge may well be saying that viewers should be held as compllicit, as amy's suggesting, too.
susie what ought his sentence be, do you think?
I gotta laugh at the notion that regular porn is fine, but child porn is criminal. Since no one buys porn anymore, the idea that watching any type of porn promotes it is silly. There is enough porn of all varieties to satisfy the perversions of everyone -- gay, straight, as well as age inappropriate -- forever.

There is NO evidence that watching porn causes anything except masturbation.

What about the generations of gay and lesbian gym teachers (and you know exactly what I am talking about) that spent all that time in the junior high locker rooms eyeballing naked young people?

Any evidence that looking caused them to behave inappropriately?

Adults having sex with children is evil.

Looking at images is harmless.

Or else anyone having a snuff film on their computer is a murderer.
Nick Interesting argument; thank you.
I think child porn is bad period.. As someone said.. exile them all
Linda are they worse than killers?
Yes Nick, they ARE! (not to mention being a sick piece of crap for deriving any enjoyment from someone's suffering and death)
As to Amy's most recent point, I have to agree wholly.
Whatever this guy's sentence should be, he is at least to some small extent--and maybe more than a little-- (as are millions) complicit in the exploitation of kids.
There is no mistaking here,Jonathan:
Child Abuse is devastating,it ruins a person's life.People who have been abused have to carry this burden and nightmare all their lives.My question is:Why imprison this guy and not go into detail?
I find the whole process weird.Why not try to find the whole maffia behind it?I know why?They are too clever to be caught.
Heidi I don't excuse any of it.
And Jonathan -- why the use of the word "HE". And all this chatter about cutting their balls off.

Don't think there are females out there that have molested boys?

And, Johathan -- you are a tiny bit complicit in war crimes, no? And the slave trade. And nuking the Japs.

And isn't everyone a tiny bit complicit in genocide?

No one ever goes to jail for being a tiny bit complicit.

Transgressive thoughts: The mind works in unfathomable ways.

Viewing transgressive images: Same difference.

Doing shit in the same room: Wrong.
All I can say is that if Florida can afford to spend $25,000 a year incarcerating a fellow for the next 50 years -- a fellow with no prior record -- for having some child porn photos on his computer, Florida must indeed be a very rich state. Looked at another way, Florida will pay $2,753.30 for every photo on Daniel Vilca's computer.
Sorry nick carraway, but I can happily tell you there's a difference between watching porn created, produced by and starring adults, and watching child porn
The argument is usually that there was a crime committed in making the pornography in the first place, and so therefore he is an accessory to that crime. Then, you have the argument you made first about recidivism. If, since he didn't have a record... that's weaker as the defense of the sentence, although, if he had stepped over that line, then you would regret, per your original point about the underlying crime, regret it.
Although, you wonder, because something is online, does that make people feel more distant to the point that they would think about something that otherwise never would have crossed their mind as a serious proposition. The Internet seems to allow and more importantly, encourage people to break down boundaries, which is good when they are bad boundaries like with race, but, there are lots of other boundaries that exist for good reason too, like in his case. Wouldn't want to be a judge having to decide that one, as either way, you would wonder if you had made a very bad mistake that someday you'd really regret.
1- I used "he" bc the person abt whom this post revolves is a man
2- I know of no war crime in which I am complicit.
3- I am not complicit in any genocide. Not even slightly.
4- I was born in '51. The Japanese were nuked in August, '45. Had I been alive and conscious and party to the decision (as 99.999% of Americans were not) I may have been persuaded that no matter how horrid, the A-Bombs may have been the sole shot we had not to lose another 1,000,000,000 soldiers and another year in a full-on invasion of the Japanese islands.

If this makes me a bad person in yours or in anyone's eyes, very ok w me.
C-Pop thanks for this opinion here.
Don Thank you; the situation's filled w serious questions.
Reading the comments on this thread I feel the need to say, as Amy and others have, that anyone comparing child pornography to adult porn or depictions of crimes like robbery is entirely missing the point. Child porn is by definition criminal, and anyone who collects it is to some extent complicit in that crime. That said, I'm not sure if life in jail is an appropriate sentence for merely possessing the images. Some sort of penalty is in order, but life without parole seems excessive.
Nanathey thank you That encapsulates well much thinking in this thread.
You are brave indeed taking this on. Few people are able to discuss this subject with any rationality. When I suggested in the comments of one of my posts that our legal system had to recognize a difference between child molesting and view child porn on your computer, there were cries of "off with his head". (metaphorically, not literally, before anyone jumps on me.)

Anyone with a brain knows that this sentence was out of line. Anyone who doesn't recognize that is using some other part of their anatomy to draw their conclusions.
Mojo it's an interesting thread here, yes? :)
I salute you, Jon, for your bravery in making this argument. The sexual exploitation of children is one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, but the topic causes such inflammatory responses that we begin to lose perspective, and this often leads to miscarriages of justice. Note the many people who were in convicted in the absurd day-care center stories years ago, which are now considered by many, including me, to have been the equivalent of a witch hunt.

Right before I signed on to OS today, I was reading the college football columnist in the NY Daily News, who argued that Penn State coach Joe Paterno should resign because one of his former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was arrested yesterday for child sexual abuse. Sandusky left Penn State in 1999; Paterno first heard an allegation about Sandusky in 2002 - 3 years after he left the school - and immediately reported it to his supervisors. How the hell is he culpable?
Crank if there's a more decent man in public life than Joe Paterno I'd be pleased to know who it is.
Joe and his name 1 thing...donated $4M to PSU to save its Classics Department some years ago.
I looked around a bit. Young Daniel seems to have mental health issues, but I didn't see anything official on that point.
The Judge is elected, which says a lot about the sentence. I hope it gets overturned on appeal. While downloading kiddie porn supports or helps drive the motivations of pedophiles, this kid was not shown to have acted towards another human beyond that viewing, so to treat it as exactly the same thing strains credulity. However, something has to be done if for no reason beyond an example for others to fear.

Now, here's a thought. Years ago I had this idea that eventually porn will be made interactive with any number of USB port devices that apply stimulation in concert with the images. I figured that digital manipulations would have thousands of women claiming to be carrying Elvis' baby.

Now, extend that idea to entirely CGI of totally fabricated kids performing porn acts. There, you have no actual victim, so the viewer isn't contributing to a child's abuse. Do you then extend the idea of an illegal "act" to the larger issue of child abuse? If so, it would be based on criminalizing a thought pattern as an act. You'd have the same prurient desire as those who victimize kids by watching the real deal, but no actual victim other than an unprovable, percentage based linkage to possible future acts.

What then?
To those that say there's no correlation between "watching" a child be raped and actually doing it, I say "BULL!":

"According to the Mayo Clinic of the U.S.A., studies and case reports indicate that 30% to 80% of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76% of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child, however they note that it is difficult to know how many people progress from computerized child pornography to physical acts against children and how many would have progressed to physical acts without the computer being involved.[9]"
Paul you've come close to speaking to why, in the end, I don't support--as I have said here on Open many times--hate-crimes legislation. It criminalizes thought and that's just not what I want law to do.
More hysterical witch burning, a la "Capturing the Friedmans". And that's only because 90% of all parents rape their children, they just don't do it physically.
Harry I am loathe to use "rape" broadly, just as I am wary of using "Nazi" or "Hitler", as so many do so freely, in political discussions. I think it does a disservice to the Holocaust dead and I think expanding the meaning of "rape" does the same to real rape victime.
The therapy for consistent viewing, producing, acting on child porn, any of the above or worse, ought to be complete removal of society, period, especially as you say and believe, as do most, that it is not a rehabilitative condition.
The penalties for not doing so are very clear in the extreme damage done towards children -- filmed, attacked, fondled, viewed -- who themselves suffer permanent damage, no matter the excellence of their therapy, and as is becoming less hidden, there IS NO crisis center for sexually abused boys.

Why in the world are we wondering whether to care more for the viewing, perpetrating, abusers!!??? It is known that any perpetrator often begins in the privacy of their own home, "just watching." Not okay!

Okay, my first thought was actually permanent surgery, which I don't see happening in our system, but I do believe it ought to be used rather than risk ANY children being affected by these men who are perverted beyond repair.

I don't see why it ought to be compared to any other crime or their sentences.
Our children, the next generation, are the most precious resource any country has, and the mental and physical health of the children ought to supersede any adult, and their rights, who seeks to undermine their wellbeing, even viewing pornographic images in the privacy of their own home (even typing those last words pisses me off, why is viewing ONE image okay, producing ONE image okay? Complete removal from society on ONE image, viewed or produced, for all concerned, if I ruled the world)
JustTh I think the law must distinguish somwhow between actual contact and viewing-only bc the idea that viewing leads to child sexual contact is, as Ms. Goode points out in her article, while most people think that's so, studies in the area say it's not so.

So while a man such as Mr. Vilca has committed a crime and should be punished, I still don't think it makes sense for the law to sentence him to more years in prison than the state sentences most killers.
It's a bullshit sentence and will be overturned in due time.
@ JW: they do???? (not!)

"A study conducted by psychologists at the American Federal Bureau of Prisons has concluded that "many Internet child pornography offenders may be undetected child molesters", finding a slightly higher percentage of molesters among child pornography offenders than the Mayo Clinic study..."
Thanks Jonathan, and to clarify, I think you're absolutely right. It's an excessive sentence.
Matt i think the sentence will be modified.
I believe counseling is a better option.
Amy there may well be conflicting studies in the area.
Christine i am wary of a counseling-only sentence.
I disagree in the case of abuse of children because to view means someone acted to produce the image, involving a child.
A child, Jon!
(To clarify, pre-puberty is my definition of child.)
Without extreme measures for a full generation against perpetrators, which includes viewers, in my opinion, we are just allowing another generation to come along of messed up kids who grow up and repeat the cycle too often.
Children who are abused are ruined forever by the abuse, no matter how well they overcome and go on, why shouldn't the men have forever consequences?

I do not believe for one minute Ms. Goode's assertions that viewers don't go on to action outside of their home, and even if there are those who don't they are still ejaculating to a fantasy of nude children who are sexually turning them on!!
That un-rehabilitatable person does not belong in society at all. Period.
I don't think it's excessive. Much of what Amy has posted on this topic resonates with me, and I was never a victim of it.
Video is different than stories, you want to write a story or draw pictures, that to me is not a crime. If there is a real person suffering for your orgasm- that IS a crime.
Thought-provoking subject, Jonathan, and equally thought-provoking comments.

Here's my take. I'm not so sure we know much of the truth about this crime. "News" in this country is so distorted and propagandized that I don't know what I can safely believe. When a president can pronounce of Bradley Manning, "He broke the law," when the poor kid hasn't even been tried yet, yet the mainstream news outlets uniformly do not call him on prejudicing a case so blatantly, when the past records of another president's drug arrest can be successfully wiped out, how can I believe anything reported? How do I know the details of this particular "crime" have not been embellished to heinous proportions? The possible motivations for vilifying someone like this are numerous. The "bread and circuses" mentality that saturates TV news could be a factor. A "law and order" judge wishes reelection. Neil Postman talked about this in "Amusing Ourselves to Death."

I am reminded of 1984, where people are beguiled and sidetracked into numb passivity by crap pop music ("It was only an 'opeless fancy, but he meant all the world to me") and Fahrenheit 451, where no one cares whether they have the right man, as long as footage of a sensational capture and killing can be aired to the TV audience.

See, I have just spent a bunch of time on a non-issue (meaning something I'll never know the real truth of, that causes far less immediate harm to me and my family than the systematic rape of the working poor effected daily, hourly, by the upper .1%.) Until the total news blackout on the criminality of our Great Leaders ceases, I will save my outrage.

I accept, and with humility, that we disagree somewhat here. I would ask you to think on what should trigger a life-sentence: 1 view of child-porn, 5, twenty?

What should our standard be for a life-sentence in this kind of case?

It IS a crime in FL to possess child pornography. That's clear.

What's not as clear to me is that the punishment should be the same as we give to a minority of those who murder.

It is clear that this man broke the law: no one is lying abt that here
or in the press. .\

His lawyers are NOT challenging the conviction.

Hi layers are challenging the sentence only.

Mr. Vilca violated FL's statute against being in possession of child-pornography (on his PC).

What if the images were filmed before the person was born?

As an American, you are reaping the benefits of the catastrophe of the destruction of American Civilizations that existed pre 1492. Not to mention the 19th century atrocities.

Not a lot.

A little.

A tiny, tiny bit complicit.
Nick if you want to continue to insist that I am and that we all are somewhat complicit in Columbus and their ethnic cleansings of this continent, ok w me. I think you're mistaken and you don't. Ok, again.
PS Nick...when you decide to give over your possessions, all of them, to the nearest Native American tribe, I'll consider following your lead.

Just show me the paperwork before I give up my Magic 8 Ball and my Duncan YoYos.
While normally a compassionate woman towards all, I am extreme when it comes to protecting children, believing as I do that the protection of children further protects society in every way, as those children grow up.
I wouldn't want to pay for a life sentence's upkeep.
Removing sexual organs would be the only "cure" to me.
As I said, I am extreme, but only in this case where I cannot come up with a different method to stop the abusers from wishing to abuse. When I learn of one, I'll sound less extreme. Unfortunately, sexual abuse of a child IS that extreme, viewing sounds less damaging, but how it is less damaging is hard to separate, as someone took that photo FOR someone else to view.

@ Snippy: You say this:
"See, I have just spent a bunch of time on a non-issue (meaning something I'll never know the real truth of, that causes far less immediate harm to me and my family than the systematic rape of the working poor effected daily, hourly, by the upper .1%.) Until the total news blackout on the criminality of our Great Leaders ceases, I will save my outrage."

You might be shocked to understand how much of the systematic rape of the working poor stems from those who once were powerless children at the mercy of perpetrators, and now are in power with untreated compulsions and impulses they let out in horribly unhealthy ways for a society, including greed, megalomania, and emotional disconnect.
Even our illustrious military has woken up to how much abuse in other forms, of power, of rage, of assault, murder, sexual assault, occurs by our own soldiers reacting from an untreated psyche of being a sexually abused child.

The "not my issue" is just not accurate for any of us.
"What's not as clear to me is that the punishment should be the same as we give to a minority of those who murder."
Murder is bad, continued rape of people who can't fight back (and who are physically torn up and damaged by it, because their openings are not large enough) is also bad. I'm not sure I could say which is worse.
Which would I pick for my child- outright death, or torture and mutilation but getting to live? Jesus. Is there a third option?
JustTh Trust me when I say that I wholly respect your position here even if I question some of the legal consequences of your position.

And consider this: A reason states gave up castration, etc., for rapists/molesters, is precisely bc it doesn't appear to dampen these people's aggression and doesn't result in less harm to kids if these guys are then turned loose.

I AGREE, as I said in my piece's first sentence, that I am FOR Life sentences for child rpists/molesters.

I am wary of having the law treat men who view child porn in the same manner as the law treats chld rapists.
Julie ok...then we have to ask this: if murder and rape of a child are to be treated the same under law AND the same as we treat under law people who view child born but do NOT what number of child-porn views do we have the life sentences kick in?

1 view? 10? I don't know.

And if we treat viewing only the way we treat killing...what other crimes should be liable for the death penalty?
I knew my comment, like other devil's advocates here, would prompt response.

Jonathan, perhaps you're right and all the facts (the "true" ones, as distinguished from the factoids that corporate news is so good at creating) are available. I still consider this another example (a la Casey what's-her-name back in the summer) where 15 megatons of outrage are being wasted. The corporations LOVE when our attention is diverted this way!

Just Thinking, interesting assertions you've made. Where's the evidence? Poor Dick Cheney, poor David Addington and John Yoo, poor Donny Rumsfeld, poor Scooter Libby, poor Karl Rove, the poor Koch brothers, poor American Psychological Association, all members, who rubber-stamped the torture at black sites and Guantanamo, poor Wall Street millionaires, poor telecom directors who were forced to comply with spying on Americans, and on and on and on, because they were all abused as children! Come on.
Skippy I cannot reply further to you really bc your bottom line is that we're so mnipulated that attempts to discern the truth of these situations are nearly all wastes of time.
Oh, dear--I'm guilty of the same time-wasting that I'm disparaging. I've got 2 IEPs to write today, because I have to work 60 hours a week to get it all done. Let's talk about the outrageous disappearance of the 40 hour work week! Now that, I can get behind.

Outta here now, though I'll no doubt waste more time reading further comments once I get all my work done. That'll be about 10 PM, if I'm lucky. Don't we working poor love our relaxing weekends! Like everyone, I have only so much energy to spend on outrage, and with so much to be outraged over, and so much hard work daily, I'm just tired.
Jonathan, that's fine, but if you can't get my name right you have only yourself to blame when I sink my 11 remaining teeth into your ankle. Really gone now!!! Honest!!
@ Snippy: If incarcerating a child pornography owner/child molester would have prevented a Carl Rove or a Dick Chenney would you be for it?

(cuz gawd knows I'd be in favor of life sentences for jaywalkers if it would prevent more of their ilk).
Amy w you 100% as to Rove... ... ... :)
Snippy: I wasn't stating individuals who were abused, I am saying that these connections do occur, that behaviors CAN manifest in untreated adult survivors of abuse in ways one might not expect, including unsatiable greed.
Mostly I was saying that to assume abuse of a child has no ramifications for anyone not directly affected, is naive.
That the US military is dealing with the ramifications of untreated survivors who then entered the military is known, as they have initiated contacts over the past year with child abuse survivor groups, looking for films and therapists to assist, after the ongoing abuses by military personnel, some of which have come to public light.

I'm done, Jon, thanks for the debate, although I do wish I hadn't clicked. I did not want to have this on my mind today, although I do appreciate your platform for these important debates...
JustTh Fully get this. I really appreciate your comments today.
the lesson here is leave florida. leave the usa if you can. do it now!
Al and emihrate where? What nation's laws seem to you fairer?
A few posters mention the First Amendment. Child pornography is not protected by the First Amendment, so that's a non-starter. The public policy behind this is an issue that other posters have alluded to -- the Supreme Court has taken the view that the production of child pornography is harmful to the individual children concerned. The reasoning is not based on whether a person who consumes child pornography is likely to actually attack a child in person.

It should be noted that this reasoning only applies to materials in which actual minors are depicted. If a person draws a picture of an imaginary scenario, or adult actors are made to appear to be underage, this would possibly be protected by the First Amendment, although the First Amendment does not protect obscenity. (If the statute is properly drafted, the prosecutor will have had to prove that the actors were, in fact, real flesh-and-blood minors.)

On the whole, I consider the sentence excessive, but overall I agree that users of child pornography should be punished because of the harm to children in the production of the materials and because of society’s legitimate interest in eliminating the child pornography market.
teapot thanks very much for this contribution
Sheila Thanks. I'm really surprised at the number of responses here.
as far as we know he has not committed any crime such as rape, or burglary,. the fact that he considers child porn viewing material is disturbing. does he deserve a life sentence. no, i don't think so. as stated, he has not murdered, or raped (that we know of).
if anything he needs counseling. he didn't wake up one day and decide to view child porn. somebody lead him down this road.
Jack he may well need counseling and I also know he violated FL law so he needs some measure of punishment as well.
I'd say that life without parole should be restricted to the worst cases of first degree murder, some especially violent repeat offenders, and possibly the most extreme traitors. Everything else should be scaled down, including viewing child porn.

What's the message sent here? If someone downloads kiddie porn, there's no extra penalty for kiddie abuse? That doesn't sound right to me.
Few topics can stir up emotions like this one. Despite the fact that he had an overwhelming amount of kiddie porn on his computer, any rational person should realize that arguing against a life prison sentence is not tantamount to condoning his actions. Downloading 54 such pictures, or only 4 such pictures, is reprehensible. To sentence him to life in prison, however, is clearly excessive. If the law actually provides that there is a mandated sentence per image, then that law should be changed. Downloading child pornography is vile - but there are other crimes, as has been pointed out by others above, that are at least as bad or worse.
Andy I do not think the statuute required the judge to view every picture as a separate '5 yr count'.
Yes. It is justified. He contributed to all the more reason pornagraphers will continue to abuse children and make those pictures and videos.. so that guys like him can just pay, sit back, share, whatever, and watch the show. He deserves it.
Regarding "treating" child molesters and pedophilia, although we both agree it's nearly impossible to cure (we don't just agree, it's a fact) there is one method that has a high success rate in dealing with the problem: castration (chemically or surgically, surgical being a permanent solution). I know your post isn't about that, it's about the sentence. But based on the comments and the incendiary subject matter, I thought I'd add fuel to the fire. It probably wouldn't apply in Daniel Vilca's case unless he requested it.
Peeling I just don't see it---giving him a far greater sentence than most murderers get. I do appreciate your argument, tho, as well as your feelings here.
Margaret Thanks! I am not sure that the castration studies evidence clear-cut (sorry) evidence. :)
OK, I'll muddy the water for you a bit:
I've seen cases where a child in a family downloads all sorts of things and parents find out later, perhaps through a large unexpected bill. Then what? How does one prove who downloaded what? And whoever reads this, please don't have the gall to say that a parent should get a life sentence for inadequate supervision.

Stating that a person should get a life sentence because there is some correlation between viewing child porn and acting on it doesn't make sense from a legal standpoint - that's where you start an investigation, not draw conclusions, particularly because the correlation isn't 1:1.

Yes, this should be criminal, but a life sentence for downloading anything is just too draconian. A sentence, yes, but not more than murder or more than actually producing child porn.

As awful as this is, and it is awful, the last thing we should be doing is sentencing in such a way as to generate tremendous amounts of sympathy for people who download child pornography, which is exactly what this will accomplish.
RW nothing I've found suggests anything else was going on w this guy beyond the facts as presented here.
What happens when a child downloads a whole lot of stuff without a parent knowing? Seen it happen, seen it happen with some pretty raw porn. It's hard to tell who was on the computer, the result could be that a parent could in theory get a life sentence for something they were unaware of.

Child pornography is awful, the guy should be imprisoned, but getting life for downloading stuff is, forgive the expression under the circumstances, out of whack. There are worse crimes that don't get sentences like this. In order to get anything like that kind of sentence, you'd need a 1:1 correlation between viewing child porn and acting on it and, even then, you'd have legal trouble. That kind of correlation doesn't exist.

One thing wrong with this kind of sentencing is it leads to a whole lot of people feeling sympathy for a guy supporting the child porn industry. Not a good idea.

A side note concerning those convicted of sex crimes involving children: An eighteen year old boy who has sex with his seventeen year old girlfriend is legally in this category and can be legally classified as a sex offender in spite of the fact that he poses no threat whatsoever to children. When laws get inflexible, bad things happen.
Sorry, I thought I'd lost the first comment.
Just something to think on when you're deciding whether his sentence was justified:

"What Are the Effects of Child Pornography on the Child Victim?
It is important to realize that these images are crime scene photos – they are a permanent record of the abuse of a child. The lives of the children featured in these illegal images and videos are forever altered.

Once these images are on the Internet, they are irretrievable and can continue to circulate forever. The child is revictimized as the images are viewed again and again."
~ excerpt from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children web page.
In other words, the children will suffer for the rest of their lives. Shouldn't the perpetrator?
RW excellent points as to the SCrt

Kosh I doubt a DA would move forward if s/he really tht a defense atty could make out a good case that a child did the downloading in such a man's home.

Amy really interesting pt re: crime scene
The real sad thing is, there's people who go out and murder children who don't get a life sentence!!

There's time for justice, this wasn't such a time. Maybe as been stated like 30 days and community service, but life??

Tink somewhere in between?
Tink somewhere in between?
I've read or skimmed most of the comments and have this to add to the discussion: this weekend I listened to the NPR reports on the South Dakota foster care system and what it means for Indian children. Priorities & the availability of resources affect everything - time, attention, money. That leads me to care not at all about what happens to this guy. Or any other aficionado of child porn on any level.

Figuring into this is my reaction to just hearing about the girl and the german shepherd - what effect could posing for that picture have had on her? Would it necessarily have been more destructive to kill her? Now add in the hundreds of other kids on the images on our subject's machine.

The subjects inherent in all of this or just mentioned in the comments - overreaching government power, hysterical public/mass reactions to issues of sex and children, probably even lies, damn lies and statistics are all important but there are so damn many very, very important issues.

And, finally, the strong and dependable rumors at a national chain hospital I worked at once, about the popular M.D. who was found with child porn on his work laptop who was quietly transferred to another hospital across the country. (He doesn't work in a field in any proximity to children and, if it matters, is from a privileged Chinese-American background.) I suppose even if I had the courage to mention it less circumspectly let alone report it to someone in a position to do something about it, it wouldn't matter. There'd be no action.
I don't know all the facts and I don't practice law but I do know that men are prosecuted more often than women are and their sentences are longer.

Is this man's sentence unfair? Probably.

I've not seen the porographic images, but I do feel comfortable saying that any viewer of child porn is a risk to children.
Two recent cases near me.

Woman [a teacher] has sexual intercourse with her underage students. She gets busted and bail is set at $30k. She's made a deal with the DA and will not spend any time in jail.

Man [a soccor coach] has been charged with sexual abuse of a minor. He's pick up by the cops after his wife helps them [DA] build their case. Computerized communications indicate he's been sexually abusing a minor. His bail was set for $500,000.00, which was later reduced to $150,000.00. He still sits in county jail awaiting trial.
Child porn seems to be an overly broad category to pass moral judgments on. Does it includes pictures of unclothed people under age of 18 regardless of the circumstances being depicted? Or does it require some element of degradation, making the child out to be an exploited sexual object? I hope there isn't some underlying idea that an interest in the human body is intrinsically immoral, which in turn probably rests on the idea of the body as a vulgar object.
I never, ever use the word rape lightly. If you think I'm expanding its meaning, check out the skyrocketing soldier suicide rates. It's time we faced life is more than just our physical presence and stop pretending anything outside of that is not "real". In fact, the case can be made it's more real.