- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - Rufus Robinson has attempted suicide and struggled with mental illness. Prison, says a judge, is no place for the Oakland County man, even though he admitted to possessing thousands of images of child pornography.

Yet more than five years after Robinson’s guilty plea, federal prosecutors still want him locked up.

They plan to ask an appeals court Thursday - for the second time - to throw out a light sentence in a case that raises questions about disparity in sentences and the appropriate punishment for such a crime. A second appeal is an extraordinary step by the government.

Child pornography made up just 2.4 percent of federal cases across the country in 2013, but the number has been growing for years due to technology, laws passed by Congress and other factors. Penalties, too, have received scrutiny. A report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found “severe” sentencing ranges for some offenders, lenient ones for others and “widespread inconsistent application” overall.

Robinson, now 48, pleaded guilty in 2009, admitting he purchased child pornography over the Internet. Prosecutors asked for at least 6 ½ years in prison, but the judge put him on probation for five. U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow said Robinson was not a pedophile, and an expert’s report found he was at low risk for child sexual abuse.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, sent the case back to Tarnow, knocking the judge for a sentence that “does not reflect the seriousness of this offense,” and noting some images showed children being tortured.

“I apologize for my actions,” Robinson said when he returned to court in August 2013. “I know they were wrong but I never knew just how bad it was until I received therapy. … I’m not calling myself a victim here. I know the victims were the children.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office sought three years in prison, but Tarnow refused to budge. Instead, he doubled Robinson’s probation to 10 years and ordered many conditions, including lie-detector tests and a ban on any computer use.

“Mr. Robinson has made great strides in managing his mental health and getting his life under control,” Tarnow said.

He also said the law and “our own basic value system” means a judge must look at the traits of each criminal defendant.

Tarnow also noted that prosecutors sought light sentences in similar cases in his court, such as Detroit-area author and educator Nick Dubin. At the government’s urging, Tarnow agreed to keep Dubin out of prison after a guilty plea in 2013 because his child porn collection was related to having Asperger’s syndrome, a milder form of autism.

“What makes Mr. Robinson different is for five years … he put his head on the pillow and he woke up the next morning” with 7,000 or more child porn images in his possession, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy told the judge then.

In an interview, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said her office must balance public safety, the rights of victims and fairness to defendants.

“Every time someone looks at these pictures, a real child is re-victimized,” said McQuade, who declined to comment directly on Robinson’s or Dubin’s cases.

In a court filing, Robinson’s attorney, Kim Stout, said probation fits the crime.

“All of the evidence indicates that Mr. Robinson will never view child pornography again,” she said. “Supervised release with appropriate conditions is more than sufficient to ensure that he never does.”

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap


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