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State Attorney General Seeks Tougher Child-Porn Punishment

State lawmakers may consider tougher sentences for anyone who possesses child pornography.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is pushing for a bill that would stiffen the penalties for anyone convicted of possessing child pornography.

Under current law, the penalties are more severe if a person is convicted in federal court of possessing child porn than in state court.

"In North Carolina, if it's a first offense for child pornography, you'll probably get probation," said Kevin West, an SBI agent who is part of the 12-person computer crimes unit seeking the tougher law. "In the federal system, it's a five-year prison sentence."

The bill, if passed, would raise the penalty for possession of child pornography to the level of other serious charges, such as assault with a deadly weapon, which would likely mean jail time if convicted.

"It's very frustrating when we know there's a substantial risk that this person's going to end up physically exploiting kids, and they're on probation," Cooper said.

But local defense attorney Thomas Manning said he thinks more attention needs to be given to the production of child porn and questions whether Cooper's approach can succeed.

"I don't really expect these increased penalties to stop the consumption of child pornography," he said pointing to the drug trade.

"We have tougher penalties for drug users, but it's not stopping the consumption of drugs in this country," he said.

The bill on tougher penalties passed the Senate last year. It includes a provision that would make it illegal for registered sex offenders to use social networking Web sites, such as Myspace.


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