Pa. Supreme Court: Viewing CP Online Is a Felony

PHILADELPHIA — Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled this week that prosecutors do not necessarily have to prove a defendant intentionally downloaded child porn to get convictions.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the 2005 conviction of Anthony Diodoro on 30 felony counts of sexual abuse of children and one count of criminal use of a communications facility.

State police said that Diodoro had 30 unlawful images located on his hard drive, with another 340 suspected unlawful images of females under 16.

Police testified they used forensic software to locate 370 images of child porn that had been automatically stored in his computer’s cache files and in unallocated space on the hard drive.

Diodoro contended in his appeal that he was merely viewing the images and had no “control” of the images.

But the justices said Diodoro had “knowing control” of child porn when he intentionally clicked on images from different websites for the purpose of viewing them.

Justices, 3-0, ruled that 18 Pa.C.S. § 6312(d) of the state penal code said the law ''should not and cannot be read to allow intentional and purposeful viewing of child pornography on the Internet without consequence.”

The high court also said that the state’s lawmakers’ clear intentions in the law were unambiguous.

“It would be nonsensical to assume that it was the intention of the General Assembly to have utilized two terms — ‘possession’ and ‘control’ — interchangeably,” the court said.

“A contrary interpretation would be absurd and lead to unreasonable results — a gigantic loophole in the statute, never intended by the General Assembly, that would allow individuals to intentionally access and view child pornography via the Internet with impunity, which would make the statute toothless.”

Joan Irvine, who leads ASACP as CEO, said that whether one views child porn on the Internet or downloads child porn to one’s computer it still has the same effect: it perpetuates children being sexually abused.

“However, we’ve also seen cases where people weren’t even aware that they would view child porn from an email or be directed to child porn site,” she said. “So I would suggest that any law be written to address these situations.”