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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys

I Got Busted with Pot. Now What?

November 20th, 2014

There are a lot of criminal offenses that are so common, they hardly seem like “crimes” at all. Marijuana possession is one of them, and in fact, in some states, it isn’t a crime at all.

In Oklahoma, though, possession of marijuana is a criminal offense that can bring significant consequences for anyone convicted. The legal ramifications you face will depend on a number of factors, including the amount of the drug in your possession, your prior criminal record, and the presence of scales, guns, or cash that could signal an intent to distribute the drug.

While possession of recreational marijuana or medical marijuana is legal in certain other states, there is no condition under which a person may legally possess marijuana in Oklahoma. Not only is possession of pot illegal in Oklahoma, the state hands out some of the most stringent penalties in the nation for possession, and it has garnered a reputation as one of “The 5 Worst States to Get Busted for Pot.

So what can happen to you if you are convicted of possession for personal use?

On the first offense, possession of marijuana or a Schedule III, IV, or V drug is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. A person convicted of pot possession will likely have to serve probation that includes drug and alcohol counseling and treatment as well as other restrictive terms of release. The penalties for a first offense of marijuana possession are stricter than those in a lot of states, which punish the crime by much lower maximum jail terms, such as 30 days, and significantly smaller fines.

However, it is the punishment for a second or subsequent conviction that really stands out. A second offense of possession for personal use is a felony that carries a potential prison sentence of 2 to 10 years in prison.

The above offenses are for personal possession. If a person is considered to be in possession of the drug with the intent to distribute it will be charged with a felony on the first offense–a felony that carries a minimum sentence of 2 years in prison. Note that the crime is possession with intent to distribute, not sell. You can be charged with this felony offense even if you did not sell drugs or intend to sell drugs, and prosecutors can find the most tenuous circumstances as indication of intent to distribute.

Now that you know the potential consequences of being caught with weed, what do you do about it if you are actually caught with marijuana in your possession?

First, do not consent to a search of your person, home, or vehicle. Second, do not say anything to officers about the marijuana found in your possession. You don’t need to tell them anything at all, nor should you. Be polite and provide proper identification, but don’t tell them who the drug belongs to, where you got it, what you were planning to do with it, or anything else.

Next, if police find marijuana on your person, in your vehicle, or in your home, know that you will be arrested for possession. The police will read you your rights, and it is up to you to make sure you protect those rights. Again, you should say nothing to police other than to insist upon your right to an attorney.

Learn more about what to do if you are arrested here, where we provide a description of the criminal process you face, including arrest, bail, arraignment, and more.

OKC Police Officer Charged with Rape Faces Preliminary Hearing

November 17th, 2014

Accused as a rapist, former Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Holtzclaw sat in a preliminary hearing and listened to women testify that he raped them while on duty.

Holtzclaw, 27, is a former football standout and ex-police officer with the Oklahoma City Police Department’s Springlake division. He has been charged with 32 criminal counts including rape, forcible sodomy, sexual battery, indecent exposure, burglary, and stalking after several women came forward saying they were raped or sexually assaulted by the man during his patrol.

Prosecutors say that Holtzclaw would prey upon women that were known to be prosecutors or drug offenders, because he did not believe these women would report him. In some cases, he would allegedly tell them he would take them to jail unless they complied with his sexual demands.

A 17-year-old accuser testified at the preliminary hearing that she was afraid of what would happen to her if she reported him. She said that Holtzclaw picked her up while she was walking and threatened to arrest her on outstanding warrants. He instead took her home, where he then allegedly raped her on an enclosed porch. Prosecutors presented DNA evidence found in the uniform pants of the former police officer that linked him to the girl.

The girl spoke of the feeling of helplessness echoed by other accusers: “What am I going to do? Call the cops? He was a cop.

At least eight women have testified that Holtzclaw raped or sexually abused them, but none came forward until one woman, apparently a law-abiding citizen, reported her rape to authorities.  Because the 52-year-old woman had no outstanding warrants and no fear of going to jail, she was able to confidently report the assault, unlike other victims who were afraid of legal repercussions if they did not give in to the officer’s demands or if they tried to report him.

Holtzclaw’s defense maintains his innocence, and his attorney attempted to disparage the testimony of the witnesses, pointing out that most were criminals and drug users. According to her own testimony, one woman was high on PCP when the alleged assault occurred.

Still, not all of the witnesses had a criminal record, and not all were drug users. Even if they were, it does not make rape excusable.

At the culmination of the preliminary hearing, Oklahoma County District Judge Timothy R. Henderson will determine whether there is enough evidence to put Holtzclaw on trial.

In the meantime, the former police officer is under house arrest on $609,000 bond.

Tulsa Man Attempts Jailbreak with 11 Days Left to Serve

November 13th, 2014

Sometimes, enough is enough. At least, it seems as if that is what one Tulsa man was thinking when he escaped from a halfway house 11 days before his sentence was to be complete.

Now, the man who had less than two weeks until his release can look forward to another 15 months behind bars.

You would think if anyone would know better, it would be Jerome Dwight Dale. After all, the sentence he was serving in federal prison in Anchorage, Alaska, was the result of a prior prison escape. He exchanged 11 more days in a halfway house for more than a year in federal prison when he was sentenced this week in United States District Court for the District of Alaska.

In sentencing the Oklahoma man, U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline called Dale’s act “stupid, senseless, and consistent” with his prior criminal history.

Occasionally throughout history, there is a jailbreak or prison escape that is truly dramatic: a bank robber in Greece escaped from prison when his brother landed a helicopter in the prison’s exercise yard. The man simply climbed aboard and left. Unbelievably, when he was recaptured two years later, he escaped from the same prison–again in a helicopter.

Other escapes are much less dramatic, but still temporarily effective. Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, who was representing himself at trial, asked a judge during court recess for permission to do some research in the law library. The judge acquiesced, and Bundy walked into the library and out a window. He was captured six months later.

The key element in virtually every jailbreak, however, is the eventual recapture of the escaped inmate. It may take months or years to recapture a fugitive, but in most cases, it only takes a few days or even hours. When the escaped inmate is returned to the courtroom, he or she faces further prison time as punishment for the escape from justice.

Of course, those are only the cases in which an inmate is successful at getting beyond the prison walls. In many cases, the attempt to escape fails completely.

This guy in Brazil attempted to escape through a hole in the wall, and while an accomplice made it out, he got stuck and had to scream for help. Note the guards laughing at him in the background:

http://gizmodo.com/5966806/this-dumb-prisoner-got-stuck-in-this-hole-trying-to-escape/

http://gizmodo.com/5966806/this-dumb-prisoner-got-stuck-in-this-hole-trying-to-escape/

There is also this guy, whose perfect disguise was somehow detected by guards when he tried to walk away from prison dressed drag:

http://www.instantcheckmate.com/crimewire/13-stupidest-attempts-escape-prison/

http://www.instantcheckmate.com/crimewire/13-stupidest-attempts-escape-prison/

And let us not forget the two prisoners who attempted to escape by stealing a prison transport van that stopped in Oklahoma to get help for a sick inmate. Lester Burns and Michael Coleman apparently forgot that the first rule of a group escape is to make sure everyone on board is, well, on board: a fellow inmate called 9-1-1 to report the escape.

Inmate Joshua Silverman seemed to have more sense than his fellow prisoners. He told the 9-1-1 operator, “Uh, yes, ma’am, you’re probably not going to believe this, but I’m a prisoner in a van, and I’m here with a couple of these other cats. A couple of the guys that were in the van jacked the van . . . at the hospital. . . . We’re in Oklahoma somewhere. I don’t know because we’re not on a road and I’m not from here. I just don’t want to get shot by no cops or nothing.”

While a total of 8 inmates were in the van during the brief escape, 6 remained with the vehicle as Burns and Coleman fled. The two escapees were quickly recaptured.

Let’s face it–no one wants to go to prison, and everyone inside wants out as quickly as possible. However, there are legal ways to reduce your sentence through appeal and parole. Escaping may seem like a good idea, but trust us–it’s not. Just ask Dale, who instead of being free RIGHT NOW will be spending the next year in lockup.

Ardmore Girl Found Alive after Amber Alert Tip

November 10th, 2014

A horrifying scene played out in Ardmore, Oklahoma, over the weekend when a 7-year-old girl was forcefully abducted by a stranger Saturday afternoon. Within hours, police issued an AMBER Alert for the girl, describing the vehicle that drove her away as a silver PT Cruiser driven by a white male.

That AMBER Alert led to an anonymous tip directing to Fount Duston, a 34-year-old man living in Marietta, about 20 miles south of Ardmore. The caller was apparently an acquaintance of the supsect and recognized the description of the vehicle in the AMBER Alert as the same type driven by Duston.

When police arrived at Duston’s door Sunday morning, he acted suspiciously, refusing to let them in before brandishing a shotgun. Officers used a taser to subdue the man and forced their way into the home, where they found the missing girl.

Duston was arrested and booked into the Carter County jail on charges of kidnapping and first degree rape. As of this writing, he is held on $750,000 bond.

In this case, the AMBER Alert worked as it was supposed to–finding an abducted child and reuniting her with her family. Fortunately, the girl was found alive. She had been missing for more than 18 hours, and more than 75 percent of children murdered in a child abduction are killed within three hours of being taken.

The AMBER Alert system is designed to help quickly recover missing and endangered children. According to the United States Department of Justice’s AMBER Alert website at amberalert.gov, a missing child case must meet 5 recommended criteria before an alert is issued:

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement that an abduction has occurred.
  • The law enforcement agency believes that the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death.
  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and the abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child.
  • The abduction is of a child aged 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that AMBER Alerts have led to the rescue of 711 children as of November 3, 2014. The Ardmore case adds another successful recovery.

Although the acronym “AMBER” officially stands for America’s Missing: Broadcasting Emergency Response, AMBER Alerts are named for 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted in 1996 while riding her bike in Arlington, Texas. A witness heard her screams and saw her being carried into a pickup truck, and he called 9-1-1. Amber’s body was discovered four days later, and her murder remains unsolved.

 

How Do I Get a Misdemeanor Expunged?

November 6th, 2014

Most people with a “criminal record” are otherwise law-abiding citizens who made a mistake, who acted impulsively in their youth, or who committed a rash act and have since tried to move forward from that past blemish on their record. Many of these criminal records contain only a misdemeanor conviction, and although the record may cause difficulty or embarrassment for the person named in the court records, it is no indication of current or future propensity for crime.

Shoplifting as a minor, a fight in college, or a DUI after one too many drinks at happy hour can all leave a lasting record that can show up in background checks and complicate opportunities long after the debt is paid. So what can you do about it?

Oklahoma law allows the expungement–or sealing–of criminal records under  a specific set of circumstances defined in 22 O.S. § 991c and 22 O.S. § 18. The type of expungement for which you are eligible depends on certain factors of your case, but the two types may not be mutually exclusive.

First, Section 991c describes the expungement of the court record after successful completion of a deferred sentence. Many people who have only a single misdemeanor offense on their record can achieve this type of expungement while awaiting the fuller record expungement granted in Section 18.

A deferred sentence is a type of sentencing that allows first offenders and those accused of minor offenses to avoid conviction and jail time. In such a case, the defendant would plead guilty, but the judge would delay sentencing until giving the defendant the opportunity to serve probation instead. Under § 991c, when the defendant successfully completes probation and complies with all court orders, his or her plea is changed from “guilty” to “not guilty,” and the case is dismissed.

Section 991c only applies to deferred sentences, however. A suspended sentence or other conviction requires a Section 18 expungement to clear the record. Section 18 more thoroughly seals the record, applying not only to court records but also the OSBI arrest record. While a person who was not given a deferred sentence is not eligible for Section 991c expungement, a person who was given a deferred sentence may be able to obtain both a Section 991c expungement for immediate relief followed by a Section 18 expungement for more thorough relief.

State law allows for the expungement of misdemeanor convictions and deferred sentences under the following circumstances listed in 22 O.S. § 18:

8. The person was charged with a misdemeanor, the charge was dismissed following the successful completion of a deferred judgment or delayed sentence, the person has never been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, no misdemeanor or felony charges are pending against the person, and at least one (1) year has passed since the charge was dismissed;

10. The person was convicted of a misdemeanor offense, the person has not been convicted a felony, no felony or misdemeanor charges are pending against the person, and at least ten (10) years have passed since the end of the last misdemeanor sentence.

A misdemeanor conviction does not have to stay with you, and record of your past mistakes does not have to plague your current situation. You can successfully clear your record and make a fresh start without the embarrassment of a misdemeanor record.

Top 10 Most Infamous Serial Killers

October 30th, 2014

During Halloween season, many of us turn to slasher films and horror classics for vicarious scary thrills. Some of the most famous serial killers–Michael Myers, Jason Voorhies, and Freddy Krueger–are nothing more than film characters. We can hold our breath, huddle close, and scream in terror when these slashers wreak their vengeance, and still feel safe when we leave the theater or turn off the television.

Still, while horror flicks are the stuff of fiction, real life serial killers have caused terror in cities across the globe. The following infographic looks at the top 10 most infamous serial killers worldwide.

Serial Killers enlarged

Serial killings peaked in the United States in the 1980’s, but have since declined. Some of the most infamous American serial killers include the following:

  • Jeffrey Dahmer – the serial killer committed acts of rape, necrophilia, cannibalism and dismemberment to his 17 victims.
  • Ted Bundy – the charming Ted Bundy killed 30 young women, dismembered and raped their bodies, and kept their heads as souvenirs.
  • Ed Gein – the inspiration for the movie Psycho killed two women who resembled his mother after she died. He also made skulls into bowls, human skin chairs, and a belt of human nipples.
  • Henry Lee Lucas – Although he is only confirmed to have killed 11 people, he confessed to killing over 600.
  • The Zodiac – The Zodiac killings were never solved. The Zodiac killer wrote cyphers to the police, allegedly holding his identity, but many could never be solved.
  • Albert Fish – the boogeyman, was a child rapist, murderer and cannibal. He is known not only for his child murders, but also for his famous x-ray which showed 2 dozen needles stuffed into his hips and perineum.
  • Richard Trenton Chase – The “Vampire of Sacremento” who committed six murders in a single month, Chase is known for his schizophrenia and paranoia that led to him drinking the blood of his victims.
  • Dennis Rader – The “BTK Killer” (for “bind, torture, kill”) killed 10 people near Wichita, Kansas, between 1974 and 1991. Rader had sent taunting messages to police, but stopped in the early 90’s. He began writing letters again in 2004, and those notes led to his 2005 arrest and conviction.
  • Gary Ridgeway – The “Green River Killer” was convicted of murdering nearly 50 women, but investigators believe his death toll could be as high as 90.
  • John Wayne Gacy – The killer clown sexually assaulted and murdered at least 33 teenage boys in the mid-to-late 70’s. Gacy was given 12 death sentences and was executed in 1994 after spending 14 years on death row.
  • Albert Desalvo – The “Boston Strangler” confessed to killing 13 women in the early 1960’s; however, investigators believe more than one person may have been responsible for the killings, also called the “silk stocking murders.”

While many of the above names–or at least their nicknames–are virtually household names in America, the number of their victims pales in comparison with the body count of “La Bestia” Luis Garavito. A Columbian serial killer, Garavito confessed to 147 rapes and murders of young boys, and he is charged with 172 murders. Investigators believe the number of actual victims could be as high as 300. Despite being the worst serial killer in history, Luis Alfredo Garavito Cubillos was sentenced to 30 years in prison based on Columbian maximum sentencing, and his sentence was reduced to 22 years because of his confessions and his cooperation in helping police recover the bodies.

New Domestic Violence Assessment Takes Effect Nov. 1

October 27th, 2014

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and this month will culminate with a new law designed to protect victims of domestic abuse.

On November 1, Oklahoma law enforcement officers responding to domestic calls will be required to ask certain questions to determine the risk a victim holds of being killed by his or her abuser. Currently, responding police are required by law only to give the victim a card with the phone number for the state domestic violence hotline.

Supporters of the law say the new measure will not only give police more information about the nature of the assault, but will help victims of domestic abuse understand the dangers they face in an abusive relationship. A person in an abusive relationship may have a tendency to believe that the assault was a one-time deal, or may think that the abuser will change his or her ways, or that the abuse will never escalate. However, being confronted with questions like, “Has he or she ever threatened to kill you?” or “Has he or she ever tried to choke you?” may help someone face the reality that domestic abuse can quickly turn deadly when an abuser’s rage is out of control.

Oklahoma has one of the highest rates of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence in the nation. The Violence Policy Center reports that for the second year straight, Oklahoma ranks third in the number of women killed by men. That number takes into account only the number of women killed by men in single-victim homicides–it does not include women killed in multiple-victim homicides, including murder-suicide or familicide (murder of the spouse and children). The Oklahoma Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board reports that only 2 percent of women killed in domestic homicide over the 10 year span of the study had accessed domestic violence support services.

The fatality review board found in its 2012 annual report that, despite the evidence of prior violence in 77 percent of intimate partner homicides, only 24 percent of the victims had a protective order against their abusers.

Certainly, the state’s statistics regarding domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and domestic homicide are sobering. It is clear that the state needs to take firm measures to reduce domestic abuse. Hopefully, the new domestic violence risk assessment measures to be implemented November 1, 2014, will encourage those in an abusive relationship to get the help they need to escape such a situation.

If you or someone you love is in immediate danger in a domestic situation, call 9-1-1 for emergency help. Otherwise, call the Oklahoma Domestic Violence Safeline at 800-522-SAFE (7233).

Lawyer Charged in Sex Tourism Case

October 25th, 2014

An Oklahoma City attorney accused of travelling to Peru to engage in sex with underaged girls was formally charged this week after a year-long investigation.

Just over a year ago, Michael Dean Billings, 59, and Ada bail bondsman Robert Pierce were accused of visiting Iquitos, Peru, for the purpose of having sex with minors. FBI agents and Peruvian officials detained the two men after they allegedly took two young girls, aged 13 and 17, to a hotel room in the poverty-stricken country known for child prostitution.

Investigators claim they found Viagra, four bags of candy, 22 condoms, extra-small lingerie, and $2600 in $100 bills in the room.

Billings has denied involvement in criminal sexual activity, saying that Peruvian officials cleared the men of wrongdoing. He says that one of the young girls was the daughter of Pierce’s ex-fiancee, and that he was planning to take the girl and her friend to dinner.

The attorney says that a former friend was trying to set him up and make it look like he was involved in criminal activity in order to divert attention from the friend’s own criminal investigation.

FBI officials say that since the accusations were made, Billings and Pierce have been involved in witness tampering, paying witness to say that they were not involved in child prostitution.

Investigators say Billings traveled to Peru four to six times a year, with approximately 30 visits between 2005 and September 2013.

On Friday, Billings was arrested at his office and charged in a three-count federal indictment. The attorney pleaded not guilty to the three counts of conspiring to travel for illicit sex in a foreign place, and he was ordered to be held without bond pending a detention hearing to be held Monday.

Under federal law, it is a felony to travel to foreign countries to engage in sex with minors or other acts which would be sex crimes if they occurred on U.S. soil. It is a violation of federal law even if the act, such as child prostitution, is not illegal in the destination country.

Traveling for sex with minors is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. 2243, which reads in part as follows:

(b) Travel With Intent To Engage in Illicit Sexual Conduct.–A
person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United
States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent
residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the
purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or
both.

(c) Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct in Foreign Places.–Any
United States citizen or alien admitted for permanent residence who
travels in foreign commerce, and engages in any illicit sexual conduct
with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not
more than 30 years, or both.

Conspiracy or attempt to commit the above acts is punishable by the same penalties ascribed to actual commission of the act.

College Student Charged with Murder of Parents, Sister

October 20th, 2014

A housekeeper reporting for work at the home of a prominent Duncan family made a grisly discovery–the bodies of the three family members who lived there.

John Hruby, 50; his wife Joy “Tinker” Hruby; and their daughter, 17-year-old Katherine had been shot to death.

The housekeeper told her daughter to call the Hrubys’ son, Alan, a 19-year-old University of  Oklahoma student, to tell him that something happened and he needed to come home.

When police told Alan of his parents’ and sister’s murders, they say he fell apart, wailing and sobbing. However, his emotions weren’t the only thing to collapse, as his alibi soon fell apart as well.

Reports say Alan Hruby had scheduled tweets on Twitter to give the appearance of being in his dorm room in Norman when he was actually in Duncan. He was pulled over at approximately 1:00 a.m. last Thursday, a mile from his parents home. However, despite telling a police officer that he forgot his driver’s license and giving a fake name and birthdate, he was let go with a ticket.

Investigators say Alan continued to his family’s home, where he stole his father’s gun.

John Hruby noticed the missing gun and reported it stolen, but it was too late.

Alan returned to Duncan later in the day, entered the home through a back door, and shot his mother as she texted with a friend. When she didn’t die instantly, Alan shot her again. Tinker Hruby died of two gunshot wounds to the head.

The young  man then waited for his younger sister to come in from washing her car, and he shot her in the neck, killing her instantly.

Investigators say he then waited an hour for his father to return home from work. He shot him twice in the head.

While his parents and his little sister lay dead, reports say, Alan Hruby went to Dallas to party with friends, selling his ticket to the Red River Rivalry and staying at the Ritz-Carlton.

Investigators say that when police told him of the deaths, his histrionics didn’t add up. They say he was wailing and hyperventilating, but there were no tears, and he didn’t ask any questions about the deaths.

Police detained Alan for violating the probation he was serving for fraud charges. Last year, Alan took out a credit card in his grandmother’s name and racked up nearly $5,000 in charges on a trip to Europe. Alan violated probation by drinking and leaving the state, and police used that violation to detain him as they continued to question him about his family’s murders.

Eventually, police say, Alan confessed to the murders. He said that he killed his parents and his sister, a high school junior, simply so he could inherit his parents’ money and not have to share the inheritance with his sister.

He told investigators that he owed $3,000 to a loan shark and he needed the inheritance to pay off the debt.

Alan Hruby is charged with three counts of first degree murder, and those who knew the Hruby family are struggling to understand the depths of greed that would drive a young man to familicide.

Author John Grisham Criticizes Tough Child Porn Sentencing

October 16th, 2014

Criticizing sex offender laws as too severe is not a popular stance. Most people tend to lump all “sex offenders” in the same category as violent child predators, and they feel like the only acceptable reform of sex offender laws is to make theme even more stringent. However, those who know and love a “sex offender” understand that not all sex crimes are equal, and that most sex offenders are actually not a threat to public safety. In fact, the overall recidivism rate for sex offenders is quite low.

And while it has become socially and politically acceptable to criticize mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, the same acceptance has not reached criticism of lengthy sentencing for sex crimes. One popular novelist has quickly learned just how readily a public can turn against someone for voicing an opinion on the matter.

John Grisham, author of numerous best-selling courtroom drama novels, recently told The Telegraph that he felt that America had “gone crazy” in sentencing and incarcerating what he feels are non-violent offenders–including those who view child pornography.

He told the British newspaper, “We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child . . . but they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Grisham then goes on to describe a “good buddy from law school” who was arrested in a child pornography sting. Grisham said his friend had a drinking problem and one night wandered into a pornography site featuring “sixteen-year-old wanna-be hookers.” The author noted that the girls “looked 30″ and said, “He shouldn’t ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people – sex offenders – and he went to prison for three years.”

The author said the United States has “gone nuts” in incarcerating people who have never touched a victim, saying that he has “no sympathy for real pedophiles,” but treating all sex offenders equally is a miscarriage of justice. He said of men, like his friend, who view child pornography, “They deserve some type of punishment, but 10 years in prison?”

It often seems that no one has sympathy for sex offenders, mentally classifying them all as violent, predatory pedophiles. Grisham faced significant backlash for his comments and quickly had to apologize for his stance:

“Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography — online or otherwise — should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable. I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all.”

One point made by Grisham’s disappointed fans is that in order for child pornography to exist, a child must be victimized. People who view and download child pornography–even if they themselves never touch a child–fuel the market that makes child sexual abuse profitable.

What do you think? Does Grisham have a valid point? Should those who download child pornography face the same penalties as those who produce and distribute it? Are they equally responsible for the sexual exploitation of children, or do some bear more responsibility than others?

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PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES Oklahoma Criminal Defense Attorneys