Washington County mother advocates tougher law on child porn possession

February 20, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - On a day packed with hearings about sex-offense bills, a Washington County mother described the anguish of having her family connected to a friend convicted of having child pornography.

Lori Pettyjohn said Brian H. Murphy, whom she had known for more than 30 years, "violated my family's trust."

Murphy, a former Maryland State Police trooper, was sentenced last week to a suspended one-year jail term and three years of unsupervised probation. He had been found guilty in December of having five pornographic images of a child younger than 18.

Pettyjohn - whose husband, Mark, is a 1st sergeant with the state police - testified Tuesday in Annapolis in favor of tougher penalties for possessing child pornography.

A bill filed by Del. Susan K. McComas, R-Harford, proposes upgrading the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony.

It would increase the maximum penalty from two years' imprisonment and/or $2,500 fine to five years and/or a $10,000 fine. It also would impose a minimum prison sentence of two years for a first offense and five years for each subsequent offense.


Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, is a co-sponsor.

During a hearing on a similar bill, Shank said he does not think that possession of child pornography is a victimless crime. "Every time it is viewed, another child is victimized," he said.

The House Judiciary Committee's daylong series of hearings on sex-offense bills included three pertaining to child pornography.

The bill hearings came the day after Robert A. McKee's resignation as a delegate took effect. Police said last week that they searched McKee's Halfway home after getting a tip that child pornography might be inside.

They seized computers, videotapes and printed materials, but declined to say what they found. McKee, who served in the Washington County delegation with Shank, has not been charged.

Other bills before the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday focused on guidelines for the state's sex-offender registry and whether sex offenders should be allowed to have their sentences reduced.

Pettyjohn said a normal grade-school photo of her daughter, who is now 12 years old, ended up in Murphy's possession. An obscene photo he took of himself with that picture was submitted as evidence in his case, she said.

She said Murphy also had her 6-year-old daughter put on handcuffs and roll around on his bed while he took pictures.

"It is sad when we can't trust our public officials and police officers," she told the committee.

She urged the committee to think of pornography as a worsening evil.

"It defines a person's soul," she said. "Those thoughts will continue to grow until damage is done."

On the Web

House Bill 574, which changes penalties for possession of child pornography, was one of several bills heard Tuesday related to sex offenses.

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