Transcripts reveal details in Ketanji Brown Jackson's child porn cases

Newly revealed transcripts have shed light on controversial child pornography sentences handed down by Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her time as a US district judge.

At issue are eight child porn cases that Jackson oversaw as a DC district judge between 2013 and 2021, which Senate Republicans seized on in recent hearings to paint the nominee as soft on sex offenders.

The transcripts, described by the in a report on Saturday, show that Jackson disregarded prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations even in some cases involving sickening abuse images of ‘infants and toddlers’ and in one case apologized to the defendant for handing down prison time.

Jackson in recent hearings said that she had overseen at least 14 cases involving sex offenses against children, and accuse the of cherry-picking cases to falsely portray President ‘s nominee as soft on pedophiles.

Newly revealed transcripts have shed light on controversial child pornography sentences handed down by Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

Newly revealed transcripts have shed light on controversial child pornography sentences handed down by Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson

CHILD PORN CASES IN WHICH JACKSON SENTENCED OFFENDERS TO LESS PRISON TIME THAN PROSECUTORS RECOMMENDED 
DEFENDANT CASE NUMBER SENTENCING GUIDELINE PROSECUTOR RECOMMENDATION PROBATION RECOMMENDATION JACKSON’S SENTENCE
Wesley Hawkins 13-cr-244 97-121 months 24 months 18 months 3 months
Andre Hammond 14-cr-00184 94-120 months 108 months 120 months 94 months
Daniel Savage 15-cr-95 37-46 months 49 months 36 months 37 months
Neil Stewart 16-cr-67 97-121 months 97 months 42 months 57 months
Christopher Michael Downs 18-cr-391 70-87 months 70 months 60 months 60 months
Jeremy Sears 19-cr-21 97-121 months 108 months 120 months 71 months
Ryan Cooper 19-cr-382 151-188 months 72 months 60 months 60 months
Adam Chazin 21-cr-076 78-97 months 78-97 months 28 months 28 months

The most infamous of the eight cases in question involves the 2013 sentencing of Wesley Hawkins, who was 18 when he was busted posting videos to YouTube of boys as young as 11 being raped by adult men.

Jackson, citing his young age, sentenced Hawkins to just three months in prison, as opposed to the 24 months recommended by prosecutors. 

‘I am not persuaded that two years in prison is necessary,’ she said at the time, according to the new transcripts, citing Hawkins’ ‘future potential’.

‘This is a truly difficult situation,’ she told Hawkins, according to the transcript. ‘I appreciate that your family is in the audience. I feel so sorry for them and for you and for the anguish that this has caused all of you.’ 

Explaining her lenient sentence for Hawkins, Jackson explained that the more than 600 images of child sexual abuse ‘don’t signal an especially heinous or egregious child pornography offense.’ 

At recent hearings, Jackson explained that she believes sentencing guidelines in child pornography cases are outdated, because they derive from a time before the internet, when offenders would have to receive each image of child sexual abuse through the mail. 

Jackson said the structure of the sentencing guideline is ‘not doing the work of differentiating who is a more serious offender in the way that it used to.’

Wesley Hawkins

Neil Alexander Stewart

Jackson, citing his young age, sentenced Wesley Hawkins (left) to just three months in prison, while handing Neil Stewart (right) a sentence of 57 months

In another controversial case, Jackson in 2020 sentenced Christopher Michael Downs to 60 months in prison after he was busted distributing images and videos of infants being sexually abused, and boasting of molesting his 13-year-old cousin.

Daniel Jason Savage was sentenced to 60 months after prosecutors recommended 72

Daniel Jason Savage was sentenced to 60 months after prosecutors recommended 72

Prosecutors had asked for 70 months in prison, but the court’s probation office had recommended 60 months. 

Transcripts show that Jackson herself admitted that the felon was at ‘risk of reoffending’. 

However, she declined to enhance his prison time based on the amount of porn he distributed, arguing such enhancements were ‘outdated’ and ‘substantially flawed.’ 

Downs is scheduled for release in December after getting credit for time served prior to his trial.  

In another case, Jackson in April 2021 sentenced child tits porn peddler Ryan Manning Cooper to 60 months in prison, less than the 72 months sought by prosecutors but in line with the 60-month recommendation of the probation office.

Though prosecutors described Cooper’s crimes as on the more egregious or extreme spectrum’ of child porn, Jackson disputed that they were ‘especially egregious.’

Jackson in April 2021 sentenced child porn peddler Ryan Manning Cooper to 60 months in prison, less than the 72 months sought by prosecutors

Jackson in April 2021 sentenced child porn peddler Ryan Manning Cooper to 60 months in prison, less than the 72 months sought by prosecutors

Among the 600 images that prosecutors say Cooper traded with other pedophiles were explicit images depicting bondage of infants and toddlers, and a pre-pubescent boy being raped by an adult male. 

‘I’m really reluctant to get into the nature of the porn,’ Jackson said in court, the transcripts show. ‘I don’t find persuasive the government’s arguments concerning why they think that this is a particularly egregious child pornography offense, which means I struggled to find a good reason to impose a sentence that is more severe in this case.’

Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court seems assured, with all 50 Senate Democrats backing her nomination, and Republican Susan Collins of Maine also saying she will vote to confirm.

Democrats need just 50 votes to secure the confirmation, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker in the evenly divided Senate. 

Lucas Cane was sentenced to 60 months in prison after being busted with 6,500 images of child sexual abuse. Probation officers had recommended 84 months

Lucas Cane was sentenced to 60 months in prison after being busted with 6,500 images of child sexual abuse. Probation officers had recommended 84 months

The transcripts were not released to the Senate Judiciary Committee ahead of Jackson’s recent confirmation hearings, leading to furious Republican criticism that the White House ‘intentionally’ engaged in a ‘cover up’. 

Republican Judiciary member Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina tweeted: ‘The Senate should be provided all relevant information before voting on this nomination.’

‘When we first highlighted her record on child porn cases, the White House leaked information to their friends in the media and Democrats on the Judiciary Committee,’ GOP Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri told Fox. 

‘They hid it from the public despite knowing Judge Jackson gives lenient sentences to criminals. The White House is still refusing to be transparent about Judge Jackson’s record.’

Graham and Hawley are two Republican members who were most harsh on Jackson, specifically regarding her sentencing history of child porn offenders.

In visibly emotional testimony during the hearings, Jackson defended her sentencing record and furiously denied criticism that she was soft on child porn offenders.

‘As a mother and a judge who has had to deal with these cases, I was thinking that nothing could be further from the truth,’ Jackson replied.

‘These are some of the most difficult cases that a judge has to deal with because we’re talking about pictures of sex abuse of children, we’re talking about graphic descriptions that judges have to read and consider when they decide how to sentence in these cases,’ she continued in an impassioned defense of her judicial record. 

‘These people are looking at 20, 30, 40 years of supervision,’ she said of offenders. ‘They can’t use their computers in a normal way for decades. I am imposing all of those constraints because I understand how significant, how damaging, how horrible this crime is.’

‘I impose a significant sentence,’ Jackson assured, but said she is limited as a judge by what Congress has decided judges can do with cases.

She also blamed Congress for limiting what she can do in the sentencing of these cases as a judge.

‘There’s a statute that tells judges what they’re supposed to do,’ she detailed. ‘Congress has decided what it is that a judge has to do when this and any other cases when they sentence.’

‘And that statute doesn’t say ‘look only at the guidelines and stop’ the statute doesn’t say ‘impose the highest possible penalty for this sickening and egregious crime.’ 

The statute says, calculate the guidelines, but also look at various aspects of this offense and impose a sentence that is ‘sufficient but not greater than necessary to promote the purposes of punishment.’ 

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