Serial Child Pornography Offender Sentenced to One Hundred Eighty Months Special Conditions upon Release
In Philadelphia, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently held certain special conditions of parole, issued upon a defendant who pled guilty to transmitting child pornography as part of his sentence, were unconstitutional. Arthur Heckman pled guilty to one count of transporting child pornography. Mr. Heckman had entered a chat room on America Online and transmitted a total of eighteen sexually explicit images of minors to an undercover FBI agent. The FBI was able to obtain Mr. Heckler’s information from America Online and subsequently arrested him. Mr. Heckler, a repeat offender, was sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentence of one hundred eighty months imprisonment; sentencing guidelines for a first offense would be between seventy and eighty-seven months. Heckman was already serving a one hundred eighty month sentence in Florida at the time of his sentencing, and the District Court ordered both sentences to be served consecutively. Mr. Heckman, forty-eight years old at the time he pled guilty, is therefore scheduled for release in his late seventies.
As part of Mr. Heckman’s sentence, the Court imposed lifetime supervised release to follow his prison term and issued three special conditions on his parole; lifetime mental health evaluations, a lifetime ban on internet access and a restriction on any interaction with minors, to be enforced by the United States Probation Office. Mr. Heckman appealed to the Third Circuit, arguing the special conditions as applied to his parole were unconstitutional.
The Third Circuit disagreed with Mr. Heckman in regard to the condition requiring lifetime mental health evaluations, citing the government’s responsibility to rehabilitate offenders and also to protect society from repeat offenders. The Court, however, overturned the restrictions on internet access and interaction with minors.
In holding the lifetime internet ban unconstitutional, the Court cited a line of cases also from the Third Circuit, which discuss the ban on internet privileges in cases of child pornography offenses. At first, the Third Circuit was skeptical to issue such bans as the constitutional infringements on the First Amendment could potentially outweigh the benefit to society. Slowly, on a case by case basis, the Third Circuit has begun upholding reasonable bans on internet access, most recently supporting a ten-year ban in United States v. Thielemann. The Court, however, has never upheld a lifetime ban on internet access, in part due to the necessity for internet access in today’s society; for example to search for employment. The Court further explained that Mr. Heckler did not necessarily use the internet to endanger minors; rather he used the internet as a means to transmit pictures which had already been taken. The Court cited a prior case where the offender used the internet to facilitate a sexual relationship with a minor from another state. In that case, the ban on internet privileges was merited as the offender had used the internet to endanger a minor.
Regarding the restriction on interaction with minors, the Court held that the delegation of supervisory and executive powers to the United States Office of Parole was unconstitutional. The Court therefore remanded the special condition on sentence back to the District Court for more specificity in compliance with the Constitution.
Federal Law defines child pornography as “a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where it a) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or b) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex, and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Possessing, Making, and Distributing child pornography is illegal in all 50 states, including Pennsylvania, and it is an offense which carries serious legal penalties.
If you have been arrested and charged with owning, making, or distributing child pornography, the Law Offices of Marc Neff can help. There are defenses which are available to you, so do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Marc Neff immediately. You may schedule a confidential consultation by calling (215) 563-9800 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.