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MA: Porn debate over National Geographic photo goes to SJC

The question of whether a photo of a naked boy in National Geographic constitutes child pornography when found in the troubling jailhouse stash of a convicted sex offender goes before the state’s highest court today.

“After a summer day’s swim, a boy returns to his new bike,” reads the caption under award-winning photojournalist Lynn Johnson’s picture in “Inside the Dragon,” the magazine’s 2008 special edition on China. The Norfolk District Attorney’s Office convinced a grand jury that in the prison footlocker of convicted sex offender ____ ____, the image merited a charge of possession of child pornography in 2012.

Reached yesterday, a surprised Johnson, who wasn’t aware her photo was at the center of a legal battle, called the controversy “pretty astounding.”  Full Article

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  1. Joe

    Well, it was only a matter of time before that stash of National Geographic Magazines in my den was considered illegal.

    Photographer Johnson should be more than surprised. If indeed, the person in this article is convicted of Possession of Child Pornography, she would have to be guilty of Production and Distribution of Child Pornography. How could she not be?

  2. Q

    OH COME ON! These folks are getting loony now. Are they smoking crack as well as playing the worlds moral conscious?

  3. mike

    If these photographs had been kept intact with their respective articles than I would take sides with the defendant. Since the photos were selectively removed and “stashed” it leads me to believe they were abused for illicit purposes. Whether or not one considers the nude form as being pornography is completely subjective. I don’t believe this man needs more time behind bars. Just some peer counseling on how to cope with this behavioral defect.

    • Q

      Hi Mike:

      I did a little time in the 80s, and removing pictures from newspapers and magazines of pretty girls from underwear ad’s was, and I’m sure still is, something most inmates do. You just dab a little toothpaste on the rear corners and stick em on the wall and presto change-o your cell is now decorated in the preferred macho manly way. This must be what Rex was doing. And if it was anything else I would consider it just one more over reaction to something done by one individual that will affect 25% of the worlds prisoners. And that allot of prisoners.

    • Q

      Mike:

      It’s also censorship. Or should I say More censorship? This is the seed being planted.

    • Joe

      So would it be CP if I cut it out? You? My 3rd grade child? My Grandfather? My Mother? A prison inmate incarcerated for burglary?

      Was it CP when it was, all by itself, on the Photographer’s memory card?

      That, sir, is one slippery slope.

      • Tim

        I think the napalm girl is still alive. What is the affect on her by having that image clipped to show the horrors of the Vietnam war again and again? I don’t see any sex in it. What I do see is a child abused horribly because of the cold, deliberate decisions of polititions thousands of miles away. Not “sick” in the classic sense, these decision makers were dangerous to whole populations of innocent children. Still goes on today. Were are the laws which protect those children?

        • ocguy

          The “napalm girl” is still alive. As a matter of fact, she gave a talk about her life and experiences at a church in Orange County a few years ago.

          I wonder if she sees herself as a victim of child pornography or a victim of a war crime with chemical weapons / weapons of mass destruction.

          I had thought about going but something came up. I wish I had. But hey, I was just looking it up again and it looks like her presentation in on-line. We can all find out for ourselves.

          http://libertybaptistchurch.org/kim-phuc

        • C

          Very moving – thank you for sharing.

        • C

          PS – I meant to give you a thumbs up there, but missed. Sorry!

        • Joe

          I watched the presentation by the “napalm girl”. Courageous woman. The footage they show is beyond disturbing. “It looks like the baby’s clothes are hanging in shreds from his body, but it is actually his skin. He died moments later in his mother’s arms”. Yeah, but having on your phone a selfie of a topless teenager is a crime that revictimizes the victim over and over and everyone looking at it must. be. punished. severely.

    • C

      I tend to agree. If the image was cut out it was literally taken out of context and put into a completely different inappropriate one.

      Somewhere school teachers are scrambling to purge any National Geo’s that have pictures of topless African women and third grade boys will no longer be able to huddle with their buddies in the corner and snicker at the sight of boobies.

      What’s next anatomy books? No more pediatricians I guess.

    • Joe

      I am baffled by those who may be on this list but who feel that this man committed a crime.

      For anyone on parole or probation, or in prison, yes there are different rules and yes, those are subjective. When a parole / probation / corrections officer subjectively determines that those rules were violated then there is a VIOLATION. Said violation is NOT a new crime but a consequence of a CURRENT sentence for a PAST crime.

      I would imagine there be a ban on all nudity related imagery in prison, so for this rules violation – take away his privileges or throw him back in prison (wait – he is already there). No problem with that.

      Note he is being charged with a new crime, if one can believe the article. Anyone viewing this photo – regardless of whether they look at it and read the article on the opposite page, whether they cut it out, or whether the take matters into their own hands – has committed the same ‘offense’. Or not. A crime must apply to all, regardless of background or thoughts.

      Again, enforcement of supervision rules only applies to those under them and are enforced subjectively. However, the commission of a crime is unambiguously defined in the penal / criminal code and is not, cannot, must not be subjective.

      The ONLY area this is not the case is sex offender registration. It is wild how it can be a crime for someone – not under supervision – to engage in the exact same conduct as someone else and be charged with and convicted of a crime. I.e. cutting out a photo of a national magazine or entering a public park. It is bizarre how anyone, under the same (unconstitutional) restrictions can support such a concept.

      This is wrong. This is a huge threat to civilization as I understand it, and this is why I support California RSOL.

  4. Eric Knight

    Nick Ut, the photographer who took one of the most iconic pictures of war, “Nepalm Girl,” the naked 9-year old girl running away from a napalm attack in Viet Nam would also be considered a “child pornographer.” He lives in Los Angeles, perhaps CA RSOL can contact him for his opinion.

  5. wonderin

    I have trouble visualizing this as porn but then again, I had trouble seeing an image of Jesus on a banana peel recently.

    • Joe

      Oh dear! Is it a crime to be visualizing these things? (the photo, not the banana peel) Please report immediately to the nearest police station for a thought crime.

  6. Tim

    I’m confused. If the prison officials saw these pictures as child pornography, why did they make them available to the inmates?

    • Q

      They seem to be a party to the crime! There’s no telling how many times this boy has been re-victimized while walking to his bike! I wonder if he qualifies for financial compensation?

      This is sarcastic. I’m also scratching my head wondering something as lame as this can happen.

  7. Q

    The thought police have arrived.

  8. mike

    I thought I was going to get more negative responses than that. I must be losing my touch. Anyways:
    @ Q: Did you really hang pictures of immature children dressed in underwear in your cell, or were these pictures of more physically developed girls? Personally, I think there is a difference. I’m keeping in mind that this individual (J.R.) plead guilty to luring two boys aged 12 and 14 off the internet and had sex with them and now he’s found collecting pictures of naked children while in prison. Obviously this behavior disturbs me more than it does some of the other posters.
    @ Joe
    I’m too lazy to clip coupons much less pictures of naked anything. Porn is in the eye of the beholder. I do have a painting on my wall of some cherubs with exposed buttocks that I had my PO approve while I was on parole. I guess it was okay considering my offense didn’t include cherubs.
    As for the photographer it does raise some interesting points. Actually I think it’s up to the editor to approve what goes in the mag. But if the photographer had been stopped at customs and they inspected her film could she have been charged with trafficking? If the photo is considered porn will the courts or DA be responsible for sending the boy a list of all the subscribers who’ve looked at his naked body? The idiosyncrasies go on and on…

    • Q

      HI Mike;
      No, I did not hang pictures of immature girls in my cell, in fact I never saw any pictures of immature girls hanging in anyone’s cell. These were all pictures from ads in the LS times, the OC Register and any number of sundry magazines that had ads in them of adult women modeling underwear, you know, they were pictures from ads. And not all pictures were of girls in underwear, any pretty girl qualified and was usually deemed worthy to be hung on the wall; that is until the unit was put through a “shake down”. Honestly, I think the cops would do that out of boredom.

      If you feel your too lazy to clip pictures out of magazines and hang them on a wall, try being in your early 20s, in jail with not a whole lot to do. I think you get my drift of what it was like, high testosterone levels, bored, missing your girlfriend etc. It was pretty normal in those days, before people found the sex is dirty cause. I think it’s pretty normal foe men to appreciate a pretty girl, especially when your in your 20s. There was not a perverted slant to it. Just like pictures in Nat Geo do not have a perverted slant to them.

      • mike

        Q
        I’m sorry. I wasn’t making any accusations, just drawing the difference between you and this man on trial. Cutting and collecting photos out of a magazine is not questionable or unhealthy behavior. It’s the material being harvested that raises eyebrows. It may earn this man an extended stay at a state mental institution. Maybe (Big Maybe) he’ll get the help he needs there.

        • Q

          Hi Mike:

          I didn’t take it that way. I know you weren’t accusing anyone. And I hope I didn’t sound like I took it that way. I was just explaining the circumstances.

  9. SkeletonLander

    And what disturbed me the most was this sentence:

    “…and a tracing of a photograph of 1981 Florida murder victim Adam Walsh holding a baseball bat.”

    The deep hatred I have for the laws created in the name of these innocent victims makes my blood boil.

    The emotional manipulation politicians have wrought on the American public by parading these children’s pictures makes me want to tear up every picture I have ever seen of these children.

    Why include it in this article? Was he guilty of sacrilege? Does his contempt of these laws betray a greater threat to society than the damage done to the constitution by these laws, a constitution that millions have given their lives to defend for the last 226 years.

    I want to undo these horrible laws passed as a horrible epitaph to these children’s horrible ends.

    These children were killed by individuals. Should we start grouping these killers by race? Should we start grouping them by social status? Why just former sex offenders?

    I know, since the majority of these offenders are white, why not make all white people have to register? Then we will make them have to ride in the back of the bus, drink at different water fountains…

    That is the problem…once you start trying to predict future events based on actuarial tables, you start to play God. And as long as you do it in the name of children, it is Ok.

    And where does that line stop, what group will John Que Public end up in once all his civil liberties are gone. Don’t think it can happen?

    “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

    –Adolf Hitler

    • Q

      Hi SkeletonLander:

      “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned
      that way.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      Notice it’s the politicians that push these laws?

  10. Tim

    The judge’s decision makes sense. If they were legally CP that would bring up all the other issues you all describe, ie. the photographer culpable for creating and distributing it as well as anyone else who copies or distributes it, including the prison. it would really be odd if what determines what is illegal hinges on the mental state or the criminal history of the viewer of pornography. That would mean something is legal for one adult person but not for another and would generate other laws to determine what mental state or what criminal history makes something illegal. The defendant’s mental health is a separate issue, as questionable as anyone feels it is. We don’t need anymore court decisions that may make producing or viewing these types of images a crime for others. Aren’t we all victims of laws based on extreme actions of the few? I believe the judge was upholding the first amendment for all, not specifically excusing the behavior of the defendant. Good for him for not basing another legal action on emotion.

    • mike

      You’ve made an excellent and sensible argument here and have swayed my opinion. The judge obviously has to play by the rules as he understands them. The photographs do not meet the legal definition of child pornography regardless of this mans intended use of the items. Most of my frustration is that this man has been shelved for 16 years and likely hasn’t received any rehabilitating treatment. He knows that he did something wrong and that’s about it. I hope we’ll see the outcome from this case. Thanks for your thoughtful input.

  11. One Day at a Time

    After giving this much thought, it is a bit disturbing to me that the fellow would have a collection images of nude children in his foot locker. I think this guy is in the 1.9%, if you catch my drift.

    However, the right decision was made by the judge. These are lawfully published works of art. Cindy Crawford was in ads for underwear when she was in high school and they ended up being plastered all over the school she went to. If you’re gonna charge this guy, then you have to go after the magazines for distributing child pornography.

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