GOP Senators: SCOTUS Nominee’s Leniency in Sentencing Child Porn Cases is a Serious Concern

By Emily Robertson | March 23, 2022 | 10:33am EDT
Left-wing Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson.  (Getty Images)
Left-wing Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) — When asked whether they agreed with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) that Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson had imposed very lenient sentences on people possessing child pornography -- sentences far below the federal guidelines and what prosecutors had requested -- several GOP senators said yes while other senators said they needed to study the details of each case.

At the Capitol on Tuesday, CNSNews.com asked some of the senators, “Sen. Hawley yesterday listed seven child-porn cases in which he thought Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had given sentences that were too lenient. Do you agree?”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said, “First off, I think we need to really get a good understanding that—and these are—she sure appears to be soft on sexual predators. I mean, these are people harming kids, so I mean, I think we have to—I hope what we’ll hear out of the judiciary committee is she’ll explain why she did that.”

“If you look at some of the things she’s written, plus the sentences that she’s given, it, sure, you know, gives you concern,” he added.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said, “Well, I haven’t studied the cases, but when it comes to child pornography I feel very strongly. This is not something that you should go lightly on.”

An email from Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) office said, “Senator Scott believes the hearing process is important for all senators and the American public to learn more about Judge Jackson’s record and philosophy. This is America’s Supreme Court, and the senator believes the country deserves a thorough examination of all information before making a determination on how he will vote.”  

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)  (Getty Images)
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) (Getty Images)

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said, “I have not, in all fairness, I would love to comment, but I have not reviewed these cases.”

CNS News followed up with the question, “Do you intend to look into those cases?”

Sen. Cassidy replied, “Oh, absolutely I will look into it and we should not--- you have to take child pornography seriously. This whole kind of let’s give people lighter sentences has totally backfired, yes, I understand that, but other things such as that indicate a certain mindset which can be so destructive to so many. So, I totally agree with that.”

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told CNS News, “Don’t know the particular cases, but I think that’s a valid discussion to have. So I think anything about how she ruled on prior cases, especially ones that seem to be out of sync, better be brought up if something as significant as wanting to become a Supreme Court justice.”

At the Capitol on Monday, the first day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sen. Josh Hawley referenced the seven cases each that dealt with the distribution or possession of child pornography, along with the requested sentencing for the defendants and the actual sentencing Judge Jackson imposed.

  1. United States v. Hawkins: The defendant distributed multiple images of child pornography, possessed dozens more, including videos. The federal sentencing guidelines were 97-121 months in prison and the prosecutor recommended 24 months. Judge Jackson sentenced the defendant to three months.
  2. United States v Chazin: The defendant possessed 48 files of child pornography. The federal guidelines were 78-97 months in prison and the prosecutor recommended 78-97 months. Judge Jackson sentenced the defendant to 28 months.
  3. United States v. Cooper: The defendant distributed dozens of images of child pornography,  possessed over 600 images. The federal guidelines were 151-188 months in prison and the prosecutor recommended 72 months. Judge Jackson sentenced the defendant to 60 months (the lowest sentence permitted by law).
  4. United States v. Downs: Defendant distributed 33 graphic images and videos of child sexual assault on an anonymous messaging app. The federal guidelines were 70-87 months in prison and prosecutor recommended 70 months. Jackson sentenced the defendant to 60 months (the lowest sentence permitted by law).
  5. United States v. Stewart: The defendant distributed scores of images of children suffering sexual abuse. The federal guidelines were 97-121 months in prison and prosecutor recommended 97 months. Judge Jackson sentenced the defendant to 57 months.
  6. United States v. Sears: The defendant distributed over one hundred videos of child pornography. The federal guidelines were 97-121 months in prison and the prosecutor recommended 97 months. Judge Jackson sentenced the defendant to 71 months.  
  7. United States v. Savage: The defendant was convicted of traveling across state lines to engage in sexual intercourse with a child and also possessed six separate thumb drives of child pornography. Federal guidelines were 46-57 months in prison and the prosecutor recommended 49 months. Judge Jackson sentenced the defendant to 37 months.

“Now those are seven cases that represent, as near as we can tell, all of Judge Jackson’s cases dealing with child pornography from her time on the district court, in which she had some discretion to hand down a sentence,” said Sen. Hawley. “There are some other cases in which the law, she didn’t have any discretion of the law bound on the sentence that she had to give.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)  (Getty Images)
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) (Getty Images)

“What concerns me, and I’ve been very candid about this, is that in every case, and each of these seven, Judge Jackson handed down a lenient sentence that was below what the federal guidelines recommended and below what prosecutors requested, and so I think there’s a lot to talk about there and I look forward to talking about it,” he added.

“Now, I will note that some have said the federal sentencing guidelines are too harsh on child sex crimes, especially child pornography,” Sen. Hawley continued. “I’ve heard that argument a lot in recent days. The chairman quotes someone earlier today who takes that point of view. I’ll just be honest; I can’t say that I agree with that.”

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

MRC Store