In a disturbing turn of events, a college-aged anti-sexual violence activist was recently arrested in New York on child sexual abuse charges.
The founder of an organization known as “Youth to End Sexual Violence,” the activist has waged a high-profile campaign to end sexual violence and rape globally – particularly against children. He United Nations events to advocate for this cause.
The accused activist is a self-described survivor of child sexual abuse. He has openly discussed the devastating effects that sexual violence has on its victims. He was an undergraduate at Columbia University.
His arrest involved numerous child sex offenses. He allegedly sent a text an undercover agent seeking to engage in sexual activity with fictional 9-year-old and 2-year-old daughters of the agent, including a request for sexually explicit images of the children.
He also allegedly told the agent that he had previously had sexual experiences with 9-month-old and 7-year-old boys, and a 6-year-old girl, and had recently met a 13-year-old boy on Grindr and engaged in sexual activity with him.
The accused activist has been charged with enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, possession of child pornography, and distribution of child pornography.
He will be prosecuted at the federal level by prosecutors who have stated the charged misconduct by the defendant is “as unfathomable as it is sickening.” They added that federall law enforcement will continue to “bring predators to justice.”
Although this case of alleged abuses is extreme, it is relatively common for child sexual abuse and other sex crimes against children to be prosecuted by federal authorities. Below we discuss when the feds get involved in child sexual abuse cases, and the potential consequences of their involvement.
Federal Sex Crimes Involving Children and Minors
Any sex crime that violates federal legislation may be prosecuted at either the state or federal level. If the crime falls under both state and federal jurisdiction, the court systems determine whether it will be prosecuted at the federal or level.
Generally speaking, crimes against children and minors under 18 are more likely to be prosecuted federally, as are aggravated offenses. Any sex crime that takes place across state borders, such as the case detailed above, is also more likely to be prosecuted federally.
In some cases, the investigation begins at the federal level. This is particularly common for computer-related crimes in which sexual predators attempt to acquire child pornography or solicit minors for sex over the internet. In these undercover operations, FBI agents often pose as minors or the parents of young children to discover predators seeking child pornography or sexual encounters with children.
Federal sex crimes involving children and minors include the following:
- Production, distribution, receipt, and possession of child pornography or nudity.
- Transmission of child pornography over the internet, in interstate facilities, or across state or international borders.
- Soliciting a minor in another state for sexual activity.
- Crossing state or international borders to have sex with a minor, or transporting a minor across borders for this purpose.
- Kidnapping or trafficking a minor for sexual exploitation.
- Buying or selling a minor for sexual exploitation.
Consequences of Federal Prosecution
Prosecution for child sexual abuse is much more severe when the feds get involved for a variety of reasons. The case will likely be more difficult to defend, and sentencing will defintely be more severe.
When cases are prosecuted federally, agencies such as the FBI become involved in the investigation. These agencies have more resources to investigate than ones at the local level, and are likely to conduct a much more comprehensive investigation of the alleged offense, generating extensive evidence that is difficult to defend against.
Additionally, federal sentencing for sex crimes is more severe. Many times, state and federal sentencing guidelines are similar, but federal sentencing in practice is much more severe because federal prosecutors adhere to strict enforced mandatory minimums, and are much more likely to seek the maximum possible sentence. In the majority of cases, offenders facing federal prosecution can expect a substantially longer prison sentence, and potentially higher criminal fines.
Once imprisoned, federal sex offenders may also be sent to a Federal Medical Center, particularly if the sex crimes were committed against children. These centers are maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to treat mentally ill inmates. If sent to a Federal Medical Center, sex offenders will be required to enroll in an intensive treatment program for sex offenders.
Basically, federal sex crime charges across the board are just plain worse for those accused. The consequences are more severe, the evidence tends to be harder to fight against, and so on. When you’re up against that kind of fight, you need all the help you can get.