FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Life sentence without possibility of parole.
That's what Florida resident Daniel Vilca, a 26-year-old stockroom worker with no criminal record, received after a jury convicted him on 454 counts of possessing child pornography — one count for each photo.
Under state law, each count is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. In Vilca's case, sentencing guidelines imposed in his case meant a minimum term of 152 years.
Vilca’s lawyer, Lee Hollander, who plans on appealing the decision, called the sentence ridiculous and that Vilca had consistently said he did not know the images were on his computer.
Vilca earlier refused a plea bargain of 20 years in prison.
“Daniel had nothing to do with the original victimization of these people," Hollander said. "There is no evidence that he’s ever touched anybody improperly, adult or minor, and life in prison for looking at images, even child images, is beyond comprehension."
With the severity of the sentence handed out, experts in justice and groups advocating child protection over the Internet are questioning whether harsh penalties really fit the crime.
Paul Cassell, a former federal judge who is now a law professor at the University of Utah, commenting on the Vilca case, told the New York Times that “a life sentence is what we give first-degree murderers, and possession of child pornography is not the equivalent of first-degree murder.”
ASACP Executive Director Tim Henning told XBIZ that on the surface the sentence seems "extreme as generally compared with previous sentences in the U.S. for this crime."
"How much of a deterrent is this type of extreme sentencing?" he asked "I tend to think that it's a very significant one. Another major issue is the fact that sentences for possession of child pornography vary greatly within the U.S. and the world.
"There really needs to be more of a consensus on this issue in order to send a clear message that society will not tolerate those that would sexually abuse children both as a consumer and producer of child pornography."