- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson defended her record of sentencing felons convicted of possessing or distributing child pornography during her confirmation hearing Tuesday after her light sentences came under scrutiny by Republican senators.

“These are some of the most difficult cases that a judge has to deal with because we are talking about pictures of sex abuse of children,” Judge Jackson told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The nominee noted that Congress has enacted a law telling a judge what to do when handing down a sentence.



“That statute doesn’t say ‘look only at the guidelines and stop.’ The statute doesn’t say ‘impose the highest possible penalty,’” she said, adding that it tells a judge to issue a sentence that is “sufficient but not greater than necessary.”

Republicans have suggested in recent days that Judge Jackson is soft on crime, citing her record in child porn cases.

Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, accused her of going easy on felons during her time as a federal judge, sending them to prison for less time than suggested by guidelines.

“I think it is important we hear from Judge Jackson,” Mr. Hawley said. “I am not interested in trapping Judge Jackson. I am not interested in trying to play gotcha. I am interested in her answers.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat, dismissed Mr. Hawley’s allegations about the judge’s sentencing record, saying he’s “unfair in his analysis.”

One of the cases in question includes U.S. v. Cooper, in which Judge Jackson sentenced Ryan Cooper to the lowest sentence allowed, 60 months, for his conviction of distribution of child pornography.

Federal sentencing guidelines had called for Cooper to be imprisoned for 151 to 188 months. He had posted nude photos of young boys on his Tumblr accounts, including images of three boys performing oral sex. He also had about 600 images of child pornography on a laptop.

Cooper told Judge Jackson in a letter in February 2021 before his sentencing that he is a sexual abuse survivor, and that he changed his life around from his “darker” period involving child pornography. He said after his arrest that he volunteered at a soup kitchen in Washington and got a job as a software salesman and then found work with an intelligence consultant.

“I am not a predator and I do not have a predilection for minors, which has been corroborated by three mental healthcare professionals,” Cooper told Judge Jackson. “I am certainly no career criminal. This will not happen again, ever.”

His case is not the only one under scrutiny. In U.S. v. Stewart, Mr. Hawley said, Judge Jackson sentenced a man to 57 months in prison on his conviction of possessing thousands of images of child porn and attempting to travel across state lines to abuse a 9-year-old girl. The guidelines called for a sentence of 97 to 121 months.

In U.S. v. Sears, where the guidelines called for 97 to 121 months for a man convicted of distributing 102 child porn videos and photos of his 10-year-old daughter, Judge Jackson gave him 60 months.

Pushing back on the allegation she gave too light of sentences, the judge said she tells felons about how victims of child sex abuse say they never are able to have a normal relationship as adults.

“For every defendant that comes before me and suggests — as they often do — that they are just a looker … they’ve collected these things on the internet and it’s fine,” she said. “I say to them, ‘There is only a market for this kind of material because there are lookers. That you are attributing to child sex abuse.’”

Democrats plan to hold a vote for Judge Jackson’s confirmation before leaving for Easter recess, which begins April 8. With a 50-50 Senate, Democrats can’t afford to lose a single vote for her confirmation.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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