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Capitol Punishment: The Troubling Consequences of Federal Child Pornography Laws

Until Dec. 11, 2013, Jesse Ryan Loskarn was a popular chief of staff for a Tennessee senator. But on that winter day, police broke down the door of his rowhouse in southeast Washington, D.C., and searched for the illegal digital items that had led them there: explicit videos of boys posing nude and engaging in sexual acts.

On Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, Ryan was found dead in his basement.

On Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, there was a twist. Ryan’s mother posted his suicide note online, revealing the great complexity to his story. He wasn’t a faceless headline, wasn’t a cautionary tale, wasn’t a vague story of justice. He became what most people didn’t want him to be: a human being.

What most of us have trouble comprehending — an argument all but forbidden in our current climate — is that Ryan could be understood as a victim himself. For his suicide note reveals a stunning truth: his own history of sexual abuse, one that had far-reaching, complex emotional effects. Full Article

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  1. Janice Bellucci

    This well written article, by Andrew Extein, tells a compelling story of one individual charged with possession of child pornography. It is a very sad tale and sadder yet is that there are so many more people who are having the same or a similar experience. The pursuit and punishment of those who possess child pornography has gone too far. The current laws must be changed to avoid these and other tragic consequences in the future.

  2. Q

    Janice is right, this is a very good article and it really hits home on many truths the general population refuses to, or just doesn’t want to acknowledge, I don’t know which one it is. I relate to this article on so many levels, except I don’t feel my once promising life has been ruined, I feel it HAS been for the most part destroyed.

    I thank God I didn’t have to go to prison, I just spent five days in L.A. County jail waiting to go to court. The entire experience was so surreal, in a nightmarish way. I was amazed that the girl that called the police on me in a fit of anger over my desire to end the relationship wasn’t arrested and charged, because she was also in possession of the offending material (pictures) her self, all she had to do was to say it was mine, which she did. She took great pride in her ability to manipulate the system (ripping it off for $, etc), and this is just one of the things about her that just turned me off.

    Another problem I had is I knew I wasn’t exercising my sexual instinct as God intended by viewing CP, just as I’m sure Ryan Lorskin also knew what he was doing was not right, and I knew that as long as I was with this girl I wouldn’t be right because her sexual instinct was so out there in left field and I was expected to participate, I mean, after all, we slept in the same bed. I am not blaming her for my actions, as nobody held a gun to my head, and I knew my actions were not socially acceptable. I was trying to correct my self, and she didn’t like that idea, especially if it meant I was outta there..

    I’m not trying to downplay my guilt, because I was guilty. I am by no means contrite about the whole thing, I made a mistake, OK, I admitted it. But give me back my life. I miss the happy, gregarious person I once was. After what I have experienced, I think that person is probably gone forever. I have contemplated suicide, but I know that is not a solution to anything, and God considers suicide murder; when the clay pot breaks and the silver cord parts I do not want to have to explain why I killed myself; besides, there may yet be a part for me to play in this life.

    It saddens me that there are 750,000 people out there like me, lost in the shadows, unable to find work, subject to harassment by the deceived and misinformed public, possibly attacked, and for the old or incarcerated ones unable to defend themselves, murdered. What also saddens me and what I find utterly sick and twisted is the fact that the powers that be go after children and adolescent kids simply for doing what children and adolescent’s do. These people need to be taught that human beings and all creatures in this creation of God’s have a sexual instinct, it falls right in line with the survival instinct, for these young ones to explore their sexuality is normal, not criminal.

    I do find the part of this article troubling when the author states “The decision to empathize with a person who has caused harm is a deeply personal one. “ because this statement implies Ryan actually molested the kids in the videos he had. He did not. The article says Ryan was a smart man and knew what he could expect; life as an outcast to be viewed and treated as less than a dog. I believe this is the reason he killed him self.

    (NOTE) I was not aware that many of us are considered constitutionalists and “domestic extremists.”
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37691.htm

    • Tim

      From what I get out of your comments, you are still a gregarious person, as I am not. They can’t take your personality away, but they can turn you into a fugitive for the rest of your life. Under that scenario I can empathize with just wanting to end it all. I’m thinking they would not feel a thing if that happened, It would just harm my family, who have already been harmed enough. Staying alive and fighting is a form of defiance. Let them be the doers of evil. As you said, they will have to answer to their higher power.

      • Q

        Hi Tim;
        I apologize for the length of the post; I just needed to blow off a little steam! As for the gregarious person, I am not the same. I made reference to living in the shadows, which for me is not to develop any new relationships (friends, girlfriends, etc) and feeling like I have to hide because I have had just about enough of people believing everything they are told to believe by some politician or journalist and being in a position of having to explain my self, and never being believed. I have 2 friends, and one doesn’t know. I will not get involved in another boyfriend/girlfriend relationship because that seems repulsive to me now. I know that’s not right or the way it is supposed to be, but I cant help it. PTSD?

        • Tim

          These new laws against us feel like a virtual water boarding. I think I can at last catch my breath, when that suffocating feeling comes back as more water is thrown on.

    • KathieG

      Q, I definitely agree with you about the “decision to empathize with a person who has caused harm” remark. How can you cause harm to pixels on a screen??? The harm was done when the photos were taken, by the person who molested/assaulted the minor. And then again when the government takes it upon themselves to inform the subject that their photo has been recognized. They could not possibly know otherwise. And, by the way, the subject of the pictures has the option to opt out of notification to avoid the pain of knowing that someone looked at a photo of her/him being abused.

      • Q

        Hi KathieG

        I’ve always wondered why looking at CP is the only instance where it’s considered to be “harming the victim again” or “forcing them to have to re-live the crime”. If this was true (and it’s not) then why don’t they go after all the people posting and viewing videos of crimes on YouTube and LiveLeak; and there are literally thousands of them showing everything from assaults to murderers, and every other crime against people you can imagine.

        Why are Google and LiveLeak and all the other sites that host these videos not prosecuted? It’s like taking two apples that are exactly the same and declaring one is good and the other one is bad. Their logic is nonsensical. What they are saying is that if you post and watch a video of some one being beat up and robbed (victimized) it’s not making them relive the crime; it’s not victimizing them again and they do not deserve financial compensation from the site that posted it and the people that viewed it.
        But if you view pictures of a girl or boy modeling underwear or engaging in sex acts (either willingly or unwillingly) you are victimizing that girl or boy again; even if they are unaware you are viewing the picture, or if the picture is fifty years old. It doesn’t make sense, probably because it’s BS. It’s just another lie.

  3. KathieG

    After reading the suicide letter from Mr. Laskarn, I sent this letter to his boss.
    Senator Lamar Alexander
    455 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Washington, DC 20510

    January 28, 2014

    Dear Senator Alexander,
    I am writing to you in reference to your former aide, Jesse R. Loskarn. I would like to state that Mr. Loskarn’s story is very sad. He obviously was well liked and respected and I wish to offer condolences to you and those who knew and cared for him.
    I would also like to suggest that perhaps this is the time to consider amending the horrendous sentences and lifetime punitive restrictions inherent to a conviction for possessing underage pornography. Perhaps Mr. Loskarn would still be alive if he had not had the prospect of a Draconian sentence in prison and a lifetime of hate and vilification on the Sex Offender Registry. It has been shown by empirical research, time and time again, that men who view this pornography are not likely to have committed a “hands on offense” and the likelihood of re-offense is almost nonexistent. It is also a fact that this offense is punished more harshly than an actual molestation, in many cases. I do not understand why legislature has not considered the overkill these laws affect and amended them to a more reasonable sentence, and I sincerely hope that you, Sir, might consider advocating for such measures.
    Sincerely,

    I, of course, have received no reply but I feel better for having tried.

    • Q

      Nice letter KathieG; well done. He is probably scared and too cowardly to take on the lie and present the truth.

    • Joe

      Good for you, KathieG, to have gotten that off your chest and hopefully given the Senator some food for thought. I do take issue, however, with your point about CP offenses being punished more harshly than ‘hands on’ offenses, or actual molestation. It is almost as if you were okay with the lifetime punitive restrictions for those?

      It should be noted that, depending on the state and the specific language in its code (i.e. California), ‘hands on offenses’ and ‘child molestation’ or, better yet, ‘sexual assault’ includes activities like having a relationship with a 16, 17-year old girl, kissing a 15-year old or touching, ever so fleetingly, a 10-year old in the chest area (not even breast). In California’s Penal Code, the only mention of Child Molestation is contained in 647.6 – Annoy and Molest a Child under 18 years of age. A violation of that, speak ‘molesting a child’, can easily be accomplished by making inappropriate comments to a minor under 18.

      So while I agree that CP punishment is for most completely out of whack with the offense and am glad you made a point that needs to be made, comparing apples to oranges I find not helpful. You were probably thinking of horrible acts when speaking of “molestation” and “hands on offense” but that kind of generalization is part of the problem. Or maybe I am misreading this.

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