New cases come to light showing how former D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson took a recurring lenient approach to child pornography defendants.
The judge has gone so far as to apologize to her convicts on the grounds that the sentences she imposes on them are too harsh.
A New York Post report compiled four child pornography cases in which Brown Jackson questioned prosecutors’ evidence and in which she ignored prison recommendations by taking a position of light punishment.
In July 2020, Jackson handed down the minimum sentence to a defendant who bragged about sexually abusing his 13-year-old cousin, and who was convicted for distributing images and videos of sexually abused children.
This is Christopher Michael Downs who was arrested in 2018 for exchanging child pornography in a private online chat room. Jackson admitted that the offender was at “risk of reoffending”, however, she refused to increase prison time based on the amount of pornography the defendant distributed, arguing that such adjustments were “outdated” and “substantially flawed.”
Jackson acknowledged that the national average sentence “for similarly situated defendants” was 81 months, but gave him the statutory mandatory minimum sentence of 60 months, which was less than the nearly six years requested by prosecutors.
At odds with prosecutors over what is a “particularly heinous crime”
In 2021, Jackson also sentenced child pornography distributor Ryan Manning Cooper, but during the trial, she contradicted prosecutors’ findings.
“I’m really reluctant to get into the nature of pornography,” Jackson told the court before sentencing Cooper to a prison term less than what the prosecution recommended.
“I don’t find the government’s arguments as to why they think this is a particularly egregious child pornography offense, compelling,” the judge said in the case, which featured more than 600 images, many of them sexually explicit.
In this case and some others, Jackson cited criticisms of the federal child pornography sentencing guidelines, asserting that they were “outdated” and “too severe” to justify her downward variations in prison time. The judge argued that such “policy disagreement with the guidelines” has led her to develop her “own analysis of child pornography offenses.”
She apologized to the defendant who further reoffended: “there is no reason to believe you are a pedophile.”
In 2013, Jackson sentenced Wesley Keith Hawkins, who was arrested for posting YouTube videos of children as young as 11 being raped by men. Instead of the two years in prison prosecutors asked for, she gave him only three months and sent him to a lower security facility.
“I am not convinced that two years in prison is necessary,” the judge ruled, arguing that such a sentence does not take into account mitigating factors, including Hawkins’ “potential future.”
“This is a truly difficult situation,” she told Hawkins, according to page 46 of the transcript.
“I appreciate your family being in the audience. I’m very sorry for them and for you, for the distress this has caused you all,” she said.
“There is no reason to believe that you are a pedophile or that you pose any risk to children,” Jackson opined.
In 2019, Hawking was again arrested by his probation officer, as he continued his obsession with child pornography.
She ignored prosecutors
In 2015 Neil Alexander Stewart, 31, was caught with hundreds of images and videos of child sex. The defendant went so far as to reveal to an undercover agent that he knew “how to groom a child for sex.”
At her 2017 sentencing, Jackson sentenced Stewart to 57 months in prison, well below the 97 months requested by prosecutors. The judge brushed aside prosecutors’ warnings that Stewart was a “practical” child sex abuse risk and posed a “continuing” threat to the community.
Jackson has said that computers, the Internet and digital cameras make it “very easy” to collect, store and distribute illegal pornography today. She says current sentencing schemes do not accurately measure the seriousness of the crimes. However, prosecutors in the cases the judge led evidenced that these were defendants who were caught soliciting child pornography, storing it, and sharing it in chat rooms frequented by pedophiles.
Mike Davis, who previously served as a senior adviser for nominations to former Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), told the New York Post that Jackson is an “activist judge” with extremist views.
“She clearly is not a conventional judge. After hearing the details of sexual torture of young children, including infants, she disregarded official sentencing guidelines and prosecutors’ recommendations for minimum sentences in eight out of eight cases,” he said.
“She seems more concerned about the welfare of pedophiles than about the safety of her children, and thanks to her, pedophiles may be living in her neighborhood right now,” he sentenced.