Rabbi, Boy Scout leader, police officer charged in NYC child porn ring

(Photo: Jakub Krechowicz)

At least 71 people were charged Wednesday as part of a federal child porn investigation in New York City. The offenders are expected to be named later today.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say that the five-week probe led to the arrest of a rabbi, Boy Scout leader, police officer, paramedic, and dozens of others. At least 70 men and one woman were charged.

Initial reports indicate that the Boy Scout leader also coached a youth baseball team, and the rabbi home-schooled children. Another offender secretly recorded his children's friends.

The case targeted users of file-sharing programs disseminating photos and videos of children having sex.

Over 600 computers and mobile devices and 175 terabytes of storage were scoured in the federal investigation.

The investigation began after a Brian Fanelli, a former Mount Pleasant police chief, was arrested in January for receiving and distributing child porn.

Under federal law, possessing child pornography carries a minimum five year sentence and a maximum sentence of 20 years. Sentencing guidelines add more jail time when a computer is used, images are sent to others, or if more than 600 images are present. One child pornography video is equivalent to 75 images under the law.

Debate over the severity of child pornography sentencing has been raging for nearly a decade.

Some criminal attorneys and federal judges have argued that the sentence for possessing but not creating child porn is too harsh, and that prison is not a proper punishment for these offenders.

U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein has thrown out two child porn possession convictions, and frequently speaks out against the mandatory minimum sentences.

"I don't approve of child pornography, obviously," he told the New York Times in a 2010 interview. But, in regards to mandatory prison terms, "we're destroying lives unnecessarily," he said. "At the most, they should be receiving treatment and supervision."

In 2011, Judge Weinstein contested the minimum sentence in the case of a teenager who had sexual relations with his half-sister, and distributed child pornography. An appeals court overruled his decision in September 2013.

In the court's decision, they found that if a person is viewing and sharing child porn, but not creating it, they are still harming children.

"As Congress, courts, and scholars all recognize, child pornography crimes at their core demand the sexual exploitation and abuse of children," they wrote.

"Not only are children seriously harmed­—physically, emotionally, and mentally—in the process of producing such pornography, but that harm is then exacerbated by the circulation, often for years after the fact, of a graphic record of the child's exploitation and abuse."

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