Fact check: Judge Ketanji Brown sentenced Jackson child porn ‘quite mainstream’

The Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson opened this week A jolt Republican Sen. Josh Howley made the misleading allegation that the nominee had a “long record” of allowing child porn offenders to “hook off” during sentencing.

“In every child porn case for which we can find records, Judge Jackson has deviated from the federal sentencing guidelines for child porn offenders,” Howley tweeted Thursday, highlighting nine cases since his time as a federal district court judge.

Although court records show that Jackson used lighter sentences than federal guidelines, Howley’s hint ignores the critical context, including the fact that the senator himself voted to confirm at least three federal judges who were engaged in the same exercise.

Federal Circuit Court of Appeals Second Circuit Judge Joseph Bianco and Eleventh Circuit’s Andrew Brasher, both Trump appointees, each sentenced defendants previously convicted of possessing child pornography while sentenced to life imprisonment under federal guidelines.

Howley’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News. ABC News on Monday morning asked Sen Howley directly for comment on the support of other federal judges who made similar statements, and he replied: “Not for this job, I’m sure not for this job.”

“If and when we properly relate Judge Jackson’s sentencing record in the federal child pornography case, it appears to be quite mainstream,” wrote Doug Berman, a leading law and policy expert at the Ohio State University School of Law.

“Federal judges across the country usually give lower sentences [child porn] Guidelines in 2 out of 3 cases, “Burman mentions on his blog, and” when deciding to go down [child porn] Guidelines, usually calculated guides impose sentences about 54 months less than the minimum. “

Berman further noted that public prosecutors often request lower-level sentences, most notably Howley in Jackson’s case.

“The guidelines are now completely advisory, and many judges on all stripes regularly find the sentences in the guidelines unnecessarily harsh, especially when it comes to first-time offenders,” said Kate Shaw, a professor of law at Cardozo and a legal analyst at ABC News.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, a bipartisan body set by Congress to set federal penalties, explained in its 2021 report that prison terms for those convicted of possessing child pornography – as opposed to making materials – have long been criticized by stakeholders. There is a minimum rate for sentences in the year guide range. “

“Less than one-third (30.0%) of non-production child pornography offenders have been punished within the 2019 guideline range,” the report said.

Among them is Jackson’s record judge [child porn] The cases show that he is quite skeptical about the range set by him [child porn] Guidelines, however, also had prosecutors in most of his cases, as well as district judges nationwide (appointed by presidents on both sides), “Berman wrote.

Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, suggested Thursday that he is concerned about Judge Jackson’s sentence, regardless of the context. “What kind of response from the White House to Judge Jackson’s very real record in the child pornography case is dismissal, dangerous and offensive. We need real answers.” He tweeted.

An ABC News review of federal judges appointed and confirmed during the Trump administration found that nearly a dozen children were convicted of the following guidelines for viewing, possessing, transporting, or distributing pornography.

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Erickson, in support of Sen. Lee, confirmed in 2017 that at least 11 children had been sentenced to prison under the recommendation of defendants in porn cases, records show.

Sixth Circuit Judge Amul Thapar, who was shortlisted by Trump’s Supreme Court in 2018, sentenced a man convicted of distributing child pornography to 73 months in prison while giving guidelines 97-121 months.

District Court Judge Debbie Friedrich, a Trump-appointed man who has worked with Judge Jackson on the U.S. Sentencing Commission for some time, has convicted at least four child pornography offenders, records show.

Howley accused Jackson of advocating for “drastic change” in the punishment of sex offenders by removing the mandatory minimum sentence for child pornography while on commission. He failed to mention, however, that the panel’s Republican appointees – including Judge Frederick – voted unanimously to amend the sentences.

“The commission had three Republicans at the time, including 11th Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, a Border District Judge Ricardo Hinojosa and Judge Dobney Frederick, who was appointed to the Donald Trump bench,” said Rachel Barco, a former NYU Law School vice-chancellor and convict. . “I don’t think the three of them will be identified as soft on crime.”

Several independent fact-checkers, including the AP and the Washington Post, have denied most of Howley’s claims. The White House called them “toxic and poorly presented misinformation.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC News “this week.” “He’s wrong and unfair in his analysis. Judge Jackson has been scrutinized more than I can imagine. This is his fourth time before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and three times before, he has come with flying colors and bipartisan support.”

ABC News’ Lali Ibsa and Trish Turner contributed to the report.

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