Local Politics

Bill Seeks to Have Photo Processors Sound Child Porn Alarm

Posted February 1, 2007 1:08 a.m. EST
Updated February 1, 2007 1:24 a.m. EST

— A bill filed in the state House of Representatives offers a new approach to catching sex offenders.

Its sponsors want to require all photo shops to report child pornography images to authorities.

The bill is titled simply: "The duty to report child porn."

Legislators say its focus is to protect children.

"We're obviously after the people who abuse children," said Rep. Karen Ray, R-Iredell County and one of the sponsors.

The legislation would make it state law for any photo-finisher to report to the authorities any images of child pornography they discover in a customer’s order.

"The processors, the technicians, are the ones who may get information on such activity prior to anyone else," Ray said.

Sometimes the technicians can make a bad call, however.

Take the 2004 case of the Hamaty family. They submitted photos to an Eckerd drug store in Raleigh. One of the pictures appeared to show Charbel Hamaty kissing his infant son's groin area.

"I would never do what you all think I'm doing," Hamaty said in an interview with WRAL.

The Lebanese native spent six months in jail before the sexual assault charges were thrown out. Authorities determined the pictures were a misinterpreted display of affection.

Now his attorney, Anthony Brannon, says it's a gray area of which lawmakers should be aware.

"What the Hamaty case has shown us," Brannon said, is that "when the net is set out to catch those tunas, there can be an innocent dolphin in that net.”

The bill goes to a review committee as the next step in the legislative process.