Bill increasing penalties for child porn advances

TRENTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously released a bill today that seeks to toughen the law battling child pornography, a bill one sponsor called the most important legislation the Senate will pass.

S2493 updates the statutes concerning child pornography and removes conflicts with federal law.

Also, this bill increases penalties for child pornography possession, manufacturing and distribution; and bases sentencing provisions on the number of items of child pornography involved, similar to federal law.

Attorney General Jeff Chiesa spoke before the committee about the need for the bill.

“I’m concerned that some offenders are exploiting loopholes and soft spots in our child pornography statutes to essentially ‘skate’ on serious offense, offenses that, were they prosecuted under federal law, would leave them facing more serious consequences,” he told the committee.

Chiesa provided one important example: In one case, a defendant pleaded guilty to a second-degree offense of distribution of child pornography, yet was treated as a third-degree offender for sentencing, and received three years in prison, rather than the five years that a second-degree crime merited.

Chiesa said that the task force officers had found this defendant in bed naked with his 9-year-old stepdaughter. On appeal, the defendant was eventually sentenced to five years.

The legislation, with bipartisan sponsorship of Republican Sen. Kevin O’Toole, and Democrats Senate President Steve Sweeney and Sen. Donald Norcross, would work to prevent such miscarriages of justice, he said.

Among other things, offenders would face mandatory minimum terms if convicted of distributing at least 25 child porn images; a first-time offender would receive at least five years, a repeat offender up to 10 years.

It would be a first-degree crime for anyone – not just a parent – for causing a child to take part in child pornography. Offenders would be subject to the No Early Release Act.

“I think we’d all agree that there are few acts more despicable than sexually exploiting children,’’ Chiesa said.

Co-sponsor O’Toole said “This is clearly the most important bill I’ve ever been involved with,” adding he was appalled at how criminals were taking advantage of loopholes.

He said this would be one of the toughest state laws in the county if enacted, adding there is no more important charge than protecting children.

“It’s the single worst crime committed,’’ he said. “It’s despicable, it’s disgusting.’’

A3740 is the identical bill in the Assembly.

The committee also advanced these nominations:

Joseph Coronato for Ocean County prosecutor, succeeding Marlene Lynch Ford who is returning to the bench;

Marlene Lynch Ford for Superior Court Judge, a former Ocean County prosecutor;

Alan G. Lesnewich of New Providence for Superior Court Judge;

And Linda E. Mallozzi of Union for Superior Court Judge.

The panel also passed these bills:

S645: Authorizes the court to credit an indigent person under certain circumstances.

The bill provides that when an indigent person is imprisoned as a result of a default on payment of a court-imposed financial obligation, the court may order that credit be given against the amount owed for each day of confinement.

The bill passed with Sen. Joe Kyrillos abstaining.

S1470: This bill amends the definition of “victim of domestic violence” to include any parent of an adopted child who has been subjected to domestic violence by a person whose parental rights towards the adopted child have been terminated. 

It passed unanimously.

Bill increasing penalties for child porn advances