Two Texas men with prior histories of possessing child pornography started the New Year out with 30-year federal prison terms that will keep them incarcerated until 2047.
On January 3, 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Reed C. O’Connor, sitting in Fort Worth, sentenced Ronald Eric Ary, of Erath County, to 360 months in a federal prison following his September 2016 guilty plea to one count of distributing child pornography. Ary admitted to using the Internet and a messaging app to send a sexually explicit video of a man have sex with an infant.
Five days earlier, U.S. District Judge John McBryde, also sitting in the Northern District of Texas, sentenced Robert Eugene Sanders, 74, of Hood County, to the same 360-month sentence following his July 2016 guilty plea to one count of production of child pornography. Sanders admitted that he took photographs of two prepubescent females he had persuaded to engage in sexually explicit conduct. In addition to his prison sentence, the federal judge ordered him to pay $10,000 in fines and $65,000 in restitution to the victims.
The advanced age of both men will likely mean that they will spend the rest of t heir lives in the federal prison system.
One Count, 30 Years – Too Much?
Each man was convicted on only one count of child pornography, but because of the harsh mandatory minimum sentencing scheme in federal child pornography cases, both men received incredibly harsh prison terms for a single count.
Is this a typical sentence?
Not necessarily in a case in which a defendant pleads guilty to one count of possession of one count of child pornography. What makes these two cases more serious is each of the men’s relationship to the pornography in question.
Rather than possessing or simply viewing the child pornography, both Ary and Sanders were involved in moving or producing child pornography for others to view. Similar to the way that drug dealers or traffickers are charged more severely than drug users, those who produce or distribute child pornography face more severe charges than those who possess child pornography.
Also similar to drug crimes, federal child pornography charges are subject to mandatory minimum sentences. The mandatory minimum sentences for federal child pornography convictions are as follows:
- Possession, first offense: No mandatory minimum
- Possession, with prior sex offense convictions: 10 years
- Receipt, distribution, or production, first offense: 5 years
- Receipt, distribution, or production, with prior sex offense convictions: 15 years
Of course, none of these minimums are 30 years.
So why did Sanders and Ary get such lengthy sentences?
First, it is not uncommon for first-time federal offenders to receive a sentence at least twice as long as the mandatory minimum. On top of these minimums, judges use aggravating factors (that are commonly found in child pornography cases) to increase sentences and turn five years into 10 years or more.
For example, sentencing guidelines recommend that a judge increase the sentence of an offender who has used a computer to view child pornography.
Where is most child pornography viewed and shared? On the internet, of course.
And if the files are larger than typical images (for example, if the pornography in question is a video), the sentence will be enhanced even more.
Basically, both the watching or distribution of a video online containing child pornography will almost certainly guarantee a sentence longer than the mandatory minimum if convicted.
What is the point of this?
Studies have found that these sentencing enhancements do not focus on more serious crimes. People are essentially facing more serious punishments for relatively equivalent acts.
Even if you don’t end up in federal court for your alleged crime, that doesn’t mean that you will have it easy. The State of Texas has some of the most severe child pornography penalties in the entire nation.
Bottom line: if you find yourself facing charges, it can ruin your life. You need to act fast and hit back hard to protect your family, your future, and your good name. That means reaching out to a knowledgeable federal criminal lawyer as soon as possible so that he or she can start crafting an aggressive defense.