Life Sentence for Child Porn Charges Not Excessive Punishment - U.S. Sixth Circuit
U.S. Sixth Circuit - The FindLaw 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Life Sentence for Child Porn Charges Not Excessive Punishment

Child pornography sentences can vary widely. In February, we told you about a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision finding that a one-day sentence and a $100 fine was too lax a penalty for child pornography charges. This week, the Sixth Circuit addressed the opposite end of the sentencing spectrum: whether a life sentence for child pornography charges is excessive punishment

A three-judge panel upheld Stephen Hammonds’ life sentence for child pornography, finding that then-District Court Judge Bernice Donald did not err in following the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines recommendation in Hammonds’ case.

Stephen Hammonds pleaded guilty to several child-pornography related offenses and to enticement of a minor after an FBI task force targeted him in an undercover investigation. Judge Donald sentenced Hammonds to a lifetime term of imprisonment, the recommended sentence under the Sentencing Guidelines. On appeal, Hammonds challenged the procedural and substantive reasonableness of his sentence, claiming that concurrent sentences of 240 months imprisonment for each count of his conviction and a lifetime term of supervised release would satisfy federal sentencing requirements.

Hammonds emphasized the fact that he admitted to his crimes, accepted responsibility, and entered a timely guilty plea. He noted that he had helped the FBI in its case against another child pornography suspect, James Frazee, and offered an expert witness who claimed that Hammonds was an unlikely recidivist.

The government countered that Hammonds was diagnosed with pedophilia, that he had previously been convicted for incest and statutory rape of his minor ex-stepdaughter, and that he bragged about sexually exploiting his ex-stepdaughter to an undercover FBI agent while trying to find another minor to exploit.

Monday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Hammonds' sentence. Judge Julia Gibbons, writing for the panel, found that Judge Donald, "did consider the mitigating factors in the case, but found, appropriately and within its discretion, that concerns about the seriousness of the crime and the need to protect the public were paramount."

Do you think Judge Donald and the Sixth Circuit reached the right decision, or is life in prison excessive punishment in Hammonds' case?

Related Resources: