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Washington County lawmakers back harsher penalties for child pornography

December 15, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? A local grandmother thinks people convicted of child pornography possession should register as sexual offenders. Anne Catir admits she might be too overprotective after raising her own granddaughter, but "today, you can't be too careful," she said.

Former Maryland State Police trooper Brian H. Murphy, who was found guilty Tuesday of five misdemeanor counts of possession of child pornography, cannot be ordered to register as a sexual offender when he is sentenced, a Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services spokeswoman said.

Even conviction of felony child pornography charges, which center around the manufacturing and distribution of child pornography, require a judge to order the convicted person to register as a sexual offender, said Rosa Cruz, deputy director for public information for the department.

Members of the local state delegation to the Maryland General Assembly would like to see stiffer criminal penalties for child pornography convictions.

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"Any conviction dealing with child pornography ought to be mandatory registration," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington. "Anytime a person looks at these horrible images a child is victimized again, and victimized over and over again."

Shank repeatedly has introduced legislation designed to increase penalties for child pornography possession.

During the last session, the legislature did increase the penalty for the misdemeanor charge from one year in jail to two years, Shank said Friday during a telephone interview. The tougher penalty took effect in October.

In the coming session, Shank plans to co-sponsor a bill making child pornography possession a felony. Maryland's statutes must be updated to deal with the proliferation of child pornography on the Internet, he said.

Shank plans to introduce the legislation even though the House Judiciary Committee, of which he is a member, is reluctant to make new felonies out of crimes, he said.

Shank and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, agree that viewing child pornography often is a precursor to serious forms of child sexual abuse.

The state legislature sometimes is softer on the crime than it should be, Myers said Friday during a telephone interview.

Raising penalties for the crime could help act as a deterrent, he said.

A father of four and grandfather of seven, Myers said he gets upset over the issue of child pornography.

"I will be right there signing onto any legislation that makes penalties stiffer," he said.

Christy Sears lives in Warfordsburg, Pa., and teaches in Hagerstown. She believes people convicted of child pornography possession should be made to register as sexual offenders.

"Others should know about their offense, and be able to safeguard their children," she said.

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