- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2014

John Grisham, one of the world’s best-selling crime-fiction writers, sparked some fan backlash by saying in a recent interview that U.S. prisons are “filled with guys my age” who were convicted of child sex crimes but who are basically innocent.

Specifically, Mr. Grisham — who’s known for such novels-turned-movies as “The Rainmaker” and “The Firm” — said the U.S. legal system has “gone crazy” in prosecuting those who’ve stumbled on child porn while surfing online, The Telegraph reported.

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age,” he told the newspaper. “Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, [who] would never touch a child. But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

Mr. Grisham, 59, said he was actually involved in a child porn sting about a decade ago when his “old buddy from law school” was caught in an FBI investigation.

“His drinking was out of control and he went to a website,” he told The Telegraph. “It was labelled ‘sixteen-year-old wannabe hookers’ or something like that. And it said ‘16-year-old girls,’ so he went there. Downloaded some stuff — it was 16-year-old girls who looked 30. He shouldn’t have done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door, ‘FBI!’ “

Mr. Grisham said his friend was sent to prison for three years.

“There’s so many of them now — there’s so many ‘sex offenders’ — that’s what they’re called, that they put them in the same prison,” he said, The Daily Mail reported. “Like they’re a bunch of perverts or something. We’ve gone nuts with this incarceration.”

Mr. Grisham also clarified that he has “no sympathy for real pedophiles” and that anyone who does commit a child sex crime of that nature should be severely punished. But for those that simply download content, often times by mistake, the penalty should be much lighter, he said.

The Telegraph meanwhile found that sentences for those charged with child pornography possession have doubled in the last 10 years, from 54 months to 95 months.

The Daily Mail posted some reaction from Twitter writers that was less-than-complimentary about Mr. Grisham’s views: “If less people (mostly men) clicked on & downloaded it, there would be less children abused. You’re a fool @JohnGrisham wake up to yourself,” one wrote.

And yet another: “I am absolutely disgusted at the stance you have taken over child pornography and have lost all respect for you.”

One more: “After being a a firm favorite of mine for over 20 years, Mr. Grisham, I can state with all certainty that I will never purchase another book of yours ever again.”

Mr. Grisham, a married father of two, does have a new book set for release next week — “Gray Mountain,” from Random House.

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