- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2002

The House approved legislation yesterday to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling that allows computer simulations of children having sex.
Bill sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, attacked the Supreme Court's ruling as having "a devastating effect on the prosecution of child pornographers, who are so often child molesters as well."
The legislation, approved 413-8, attempts to rewrite a ban on virtual child pornography, after the Supreme Court on April 16 overturned parts of a similar 1996 law as unconstitutional.
"Congress is one step closer to helping the high court side with children over pedophiles," said Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley. "It's time we unshackle prosecutors so they can protect our children once again."
The 1996 law banned child pornography that appeared to but did not depict real children. It was aimed at pornography that uses computer-generated images or images of adults who look like children. The court, in a 6-3 ruling, said the law violated the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech and press.
Supporters of Mr. Smith's bill say computer technology has become so advanced that it is just about impossible to determine whether images depict real children. They say the bill is crucial to preventing actual child pornographers from getting away with their crime by claiming the images are computer generated.
Mr. Smith, who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's crime subcommittee, said the bill addresses the court's concerns. But the subcommittee's ranking member, Rep. Robert C. Scott, Virginia Democrat, said the bill is just as unconstitutional as the 1996 law and will "likely meet the same fate."
The bill would ban a computer-generated image that "is, or is indistinguishable from that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct."
Mr. Smith said that by using the word, "indistinguishable," bill crafters address the court's concern that cartoon sketches and statues of children would be banned.
He also said by limiting the definition to computer-generated images, the bill addresses the court's concern that legitimate movies like "Traffic" or plays like "Romeo and Juliet" would be outlawed.
Under the bill, defendants would have to prove the pornography did not involve real children in order to avoid conviction. Mr. Scott said this unfairly puts the burden of proof on the defendants.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota Democrat, echoed other supporters when he said the use of child pornography whether real or virtual damages children because it "whets the appetites of the exploiters."
But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, said Republicans are "trying to overturn a Supreme Court decision they do not like, by statute." Mr. Scott said it is clear that child pornography must involve real children in order to be banned.
The House also approved two other child pornography-related bills. One measure would allow federal judges to order any amount of supervised release, including lifetime supervised release, for people convicted of certain sex offenses.
The second would strengthen law enforcement's ability to prosecute "sex tourists" those who travel to foreign countries and have sex with children.


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