Court Upholds Child Porn Downloads as Felony

Court Upholds Child Porn Downloads as Felony
Kat Khan
DETROIT — The Michigan Court of Appeals has set a statewide precedent by unanimously ruling to uphold the child pornography charges against a former local township treasurer, for allegedly downloading commercial Internet photographs of child sex onto computer disks for his personal use.

The Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office position in the ongoing child-pornography case against former Egelston Township Treasurer Brian Hill contended that Hill is properly charged with “making” or “manufacturing” child pornography – a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Hill’s attorney, Frank Stanley, had appealed the charge, arguing the language of the charge should have been changed to “possession” of child porn, a four-year felony that often turns into a one-year sentence.

The issue has never before been addressed by a Michigan higher court, marking the recent ruling as precedent for the state.

"It's groundbreaking law in the area of computers and pornography," prosecutor Tony Tague said. "This decision will provide a tool to prosecutors across the state, particularly in curbing and prosecuting child pornography. It will allow us to ensure that a punishment is given to child pornographers, because they now face up to 20 years as opposed to four."

Tague added that a defense appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court is likely, but until then, Hill's long-delayed trial is expected to be placed back on the schedule. Hill, who resigned as township treasurer in November, is charged with five counts of making or producing child sexually abusive material and five counts of using a computer to commit those crimes, also a 20-year felony.

In addition, Hill faces three counts of eavesdropping by installing a video device and snooping with a hidden camera on male teenage exchange students using the shower in his home.

In a written opinion signed by justices William Murphy, Brian Zahra and Janet Neff, the appeals court stated: "(W)hen one 'makes' a 'copy' or 'reproduction' of a picture or image showing children engaged in sexual acts, he or she has made child sexually abusive material, which, according to (Michigan law), is a felony punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment."