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BREAKING 1:30pm 5-19-08 U.S. Supreme Court Rules 7-2: Child Porn Not Protected by Free Speech
Monday, May 19, 2008 11:25am

WASHINGTON, D.C.  From CNN  (By: Tom Pace, Talk of the Town) BREAKING: SUPREME COURT NEWS  1:30pm 5-19-08  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 today against child porn.  Specifically, the high court upheld a law aimed at preventing child pornography, ruling a provision dealing with "pandering" illicit material does not violate constitutional protections on free speech. 

The case involves Michael Williams, convicted in a Florida federal court for promoting child pornography on the Internet, CNN reported.

A 2003 federal law made it a crime not only to produce and possess child porn, but also to "pander" material, conveying the belief that material contains minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The pandering provision covers anyone who "advertises, promotes, presents, distributes, or solicits" this material.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said Congress' latest attempt to deal with this "threat" was legally "successful."

The "Protect" Act was Congress' latest attempt to control graphic images on the Internet. Previous efforts were struck down by the high court on First Amendment issues. 

As part of a 2004 sting operation, an undercover Secret Service agent (using the screen name "Lisa--n--Miami") communicated with Williams in an Internet chat room.

Williams allegedly wrote, "Dad of toddler has 'good' pics of her an (sic) me for swap of your toddler pics, or live cam." He posted nonpornographic photos of a young girl and claimed he had "hc," or hard-core, kiddie pictures, prosecutors contend. 

The man then allegedly posted photos of youngsters involved in "sexually explicit conduct," according to court records. Twenty-two other child porn images were found on his home computer.

A federal appeals court upheld a possession conviction against Williams, but threw out the separate soliciting charge, which carried a five-year mandatory minimum sentence.

A three-judge panel concluded the provision was "substantially overbroad and vague," and that "non-commercial, non-inciteful promotion of illegal child pornography, even if repugnant, is protected free speech." In other words, the judges said merely talking about child porn is not necessarily criminal.

Scalia said judges had proper discretion to decide when anti-pornography laws should be properly applied, but he noted that such illicit material has increased in recent years.

"Child pornography harms and debases the most defenseless of our citizens," he said. "This court held unconstitutional Congress' previous attempt to meet this new threat, and Congress responded with a carefully crafted attempt to eliminate the First Amendment problems we [earlier] identified."

The Bush administration urged the high court to accept the case, saying the overall impact of the law was being held "hostage to a few hypothetical scenarios."

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