Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 31, 2013

Sinnette has part in tougher child porn law

By KENNETH HART
The Independent

FRANKFORT — A bill sponsored by a local legislator aimed at closing a loophole in Kentucky’s child-pornography laws has been signed into law.

House Bill 39, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, and signed into law March 21 by Gov. Steve Beshear, will make the viewing of child porn a Class D felony when it goes into effect later this year.

Sinnette said he sponsored the bill after learning that while it is illegal to possess or distribute sexually explicit material involving minors, it’s technically legal to view it in Kentucky.  

“In other words, currently, it is legal to watch child pornography online, but it is only illegal to download it onto a computer,” he said. “Technology is such that you can view a video without actually downloading it on your computer, thus, you are not possessing it.”

Sinnette, who represents the 100th District in the General Assembly, said he sponsored the legislation because he found the notion of it being legal for people to watch child pornography “quite disturbing.”

He went on to say he learned of loophole in the current state statutes from Sgt. Ryan Conley, who conducts investigations involving online exploitation of minors for the Ashland Police Department.    

Sinnette said Conley told him closing the loophole would make it easier for police to track individuals who consistently view child pornography online without actually downloading it. The passage of HB 39 gives police the ability to charge everyone associated with the viewing of child pornography, even if it was being viewed by multiple individuals at one location.  

The new law will make watching child porn a Class D felony, the same as possessing or distributing it is now. A person convicted of violating law would face a prison sentence of up to five years for each violation, up to a maximum of 20 years, and also be subject to property forfeiture.

“It is my opinion that any individual who views this material is just as guilty as the person who possessed it, downloaded it or distributed it and, therefore, it should have the same penalty associated with it,”  Sinnette said.

The legislation also contains a provision that a registered sex offender cannot intentionally photograph or videotape a minor without the consent of the minor’s parent.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.