Free-Range Kids

Child Porn Charges: Is Autism a Defense?

He is developmentally disabled. He poses no threat to children. Still, he is now a felon.

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Handcuffs
Jinga80

The law professor stood at the front of the classroom and introduced Nick, his 30-something son, saying, "I'm very proud of him."

The dad, Larry Dubin, told the small audience about Nick's growing up, graduating college, and eventually writing three books. What dad wouldn't be proud?

Then he talked about his son's diagnosis: Asperger's syndrome, a neurological disease on the autism spectrum. As a young child, Nick flapped his arms a lot. At 3, he barely spoke. As an adult, he still cannot tie his shoes, making it all the more impressive that he has achieved so much.

Then the dad added one more item to his son's resume: Nick is a convicted felon, a sex offender on the registry. He was found guilty of possession of child pornography. "That does not in any way dilute my feelings and respect for who Nick is as a person," said the dad.

And maybe that's something the rest of us have to digest.

What the dad has learned the hardest way possible is that many of the people charged with possession of child porn turn out to be people with developmental disabilities. One study found it's actually the majority, which is not totally surprising. These are people who have often grown up bullied and despised. The differences affect their lives in other ways, too, including the age of the people they relate to. If you're 20 or 30 but part of you feels about 8 or 10 or 14, it's not that surprising that that's the age you'd like to see pictures of. You may not even understand it's wrong.

Now, I realize this is a tough and depressing topic. No one wants to talk about it. But that's why it was so impressive that Larry and Nick Dubin decided to make this public appearance—their first — to discuss what it's like to live with a disability and be a sex offender. They'd been invited to St. Francis College in Brooklyn to do so.

Nick went to the lectern after his silver-haired, professorial dad. He looked boyish in a striped sweater (perhaps he can't tie a tie). People with Asperger's can be genius-smart in some respects and far behind in others.

"I think you can see how I've been able to survive this," he said with a grateful nod toward his father.

As a kid, Nick was, not surprisingly, tormented by some of his schoolmates. But as he got older and watched them entering relationships, he felt even worse. When he discovered the world of online porn, that's where he went to feel less lonely. He knew there was something wrong about child porn, but he had no idea it's illegal. Then one morning, before dawn, his door burst open and 12 men flooded his room.

They yanked him out of bed, threw him against the wall and clapped him in handcuffs.

It was the FBI. He was under arrest for the illegal images he'd been looking at.

By the time his case was finally settled, Nick had undergone five psych evaluations. They all concluded the same thing: He is developmentally disabled. He poses no threat to children. Still, he is now a felon.

"I don't enjoy talking about this," said Nick. But he decided to take this embarrassing leap into the spotlight because as word of his case spread—and because of the fact that his dad is a law professor—the family phone started ringing. Almost once a month, it is a desperate parent sobbing, saying the same thing just happened to his or her son—a son with Asperger's or autism or some other illness.

Over the years, we have come to take into account a defendant's IQ in criminal cases. We understand that someone wired differently should be treated differently.

It's time we realized that about child porn possession, too.

NEXT: Horrible PSA: It's Okay to Bully Kids If Their Parents Didn't Vote?

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  1. Sounds like you need some member berries.

    Member when kids stealing a bike or bashing a mailbox was dealt with by the parents? Member when the police would just bring a wayward child home to their parents? Member that? Member when we treated mentally handicapped people with the same responsibility as children? Member that?

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  2. …many of the people charged with possession of child porn turn out to be people with developmental disabilities. One study found it’s actually the majority…

    I’m sure you’re telling the truth but links to said studies for non-regulars around here would strongly help the argument.

    1. “Non-regulars”? What are those? Get outta town.

      1. I thought we ran those people off.

  3. We try some children as adults based on the crime they committed. Trying adults as children based on mental capacity would require some sort of nuance in either legislation or prosecution. Anyone familiar with legislators or prosecutors can see the problem with that idea.

  4. From the recent documentary I saw, autism can also lead to ‘skilled assassin’.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2140479/

    1. They really botched that documentary about me, I’m much better than that.

      1. This one is good too I hear (haven’t seen it yet), though I think the Tourette’s kid near the end was obviously made up to appeal to a wider audience. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1183252/

  5. Beneath the geometric perfection of contemporary Squares lies multitudes of merciless mores.

    In spite of its so-called advanced state society remains callously removed from the intellectual discourse required to present a fucking rational proposition on complex issues related to sexuality.

    Shoehorning uncomfortable shit onto freakishly-ignorant lists is a sordid method of salvation for the social moralizer.

  6. I’m not worried. Hillary is already planning her Gulag, which will provide the necessary treatment for such unfortunates. Along with those afflicted with ‘hate-based cognition’ and ‘race mania’. Which includes both Keith Ablow and Dr Drew, so it’s not clear at this point who will be providing the treatment. But hey these details will be worked out. There will of course be an affirmative action program – and I’m excited to report that Dr Ben Carson has been selected to perform lobotomies.

    Jill Stein approves this message.

  7. The War on Child Porn is as bad as the WOD. Lives ruined for victimless crimes and terrible laws and precedents in the name of “the children”.

    1. Well, certainly not in scope or scale. But I get what you are driving at.

    2. Victimless crimes? Child porn is victimless? Seriously.

      1. These threads always bring the pedophiles out of the woodwork to defend this stuff.

        1. “People who disagree with me are pedophiles”

          Powerful logic right there.

        2. Yeah, anyone who wants to end the war on drugs is obviously a drug addicted psychopath child-hater. Leave Reason, go join Irrational magazine and vote for Hiltrump. You’ll be happier that way.

      2. You’re conflating, perhaps deliberately so, production with possession.

        1. Possession requires production. If you’re on the demand side of the equation, then yes, you are in some part responsible for the production end as well.

          1. This depends on how the file was acquired. If it was paid for then yes, clearly fueling demand. If it was downloaded second hand on some obscure darknet site then no, that is not fueling demand because the creator has no clue it was downloaded and by whom at that point and gains nothing.

            Either way, the one solely responsible for the production is the producer. Just because someone offers money or encouragement does not mean they can’t control themselves.

            Also, this assumes all child porn is of adults raping/molesting children. I think all the articles and research saying otherwise kind of proves it isn’t.

      3. Where is the victim in a webcam vid of some precocious girl masturbating on cam? How about the victim of the two teens having sex? Where is the victim in the video of a naked 15 year old girl that was sent to her boyfriend?

        Possessing pictures is a victimless crime, even if they depict rape. You clearly agree, otherwise you’d be clambering for the possession of photos and videos of dead or murdered children to be illegal.

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  10. So…commit him permanently? If you lack the mental capacity to not commit crimes, you don’t have the rationality that allows you to function in society at all. This negates mens rea for ANYTHING. You sure this is where you want to go? Permanently locking people up?

    1. I’d say impose a lesser sentence based on mitigating circumstances? A sentence which *doesn’t* involve being on a sex offender registry?

      1. Pretty much the only lenience a mental case should get on a crime is serving their time in a mental hospital instead of a prison. You can argue about whether this sort of crime should put the offender on a sex offender registry, but if a sane person is put on the registry then surely a person with mental issues should be as well if they commit the same offense. If the argument is that they can’t tell right from wrong, then they are probably a greater danger than the mentally competent person, as they lack the regular inhibitions that prevent people from acting on their darker impulses, so I don’t see how that argument can promote lenience.

  11. Let me guess…the FBI is involved because of some kind of interstate commerce thing?

    It’s not as if the feds have a general authority to regulate (actual or alleged) vice, is it?

    1. Yes. The federal law on child pornography broadly invokes interstate and foreign commerce. It doesn’t even have to be in interstate commerce; it just has to use a means or facility or to affect it.

      1. *Yes to your first question.

    2. The internet usual does involve interstate transactions, so federal involvement is probably warranted.

      1. You don’t understand this whole libertarianism thing, do you?

  12. Nope, no sympathy. Does anyone think in this way for any other crime? Does a murderer get a pass if he’s a retard? Does a rapist get off because her skirt was short and he was horny?

    Mental state is irrelevant to this question; porn on the internet is abundant and it would take some serious digging to get to child porn. This was a willful act, it is illegal, and is illegal because the acts in question were illegal at the time of filming and it is argued that allowing the legal distribution and commercialization of the filming of these acts encourages more of them.

    Fuck this guy.

    1. Does a murderer get a pass if he’s a retard?

      Uh…. yeah. In many instances they do. I think that was kinda her point.

      From the description, this doesn’t seem to be a case of an autistic man assaulting small children, but of an autistic man looking at dirty pictures on the web. Precisely the kind of case that would make you want to take the capacity of the accused into account.

      1. Uh…. yeah. In many instances they do

        Not in a straightforward fashion. Merely being retarded isn’t an excuse unless there’s strong evidence that the person did not have any capacity to understand his act.

        And being autistic, as darius explains below, doesn’t meet that bar. Particularly given the difficulty of finding child porn on the web in the first place; I would judge that anyone who has that intellectual capacity is almost certainly unlikely to lack the capacity to understand his act — in the abstract at least if not quite at an emotional level.

        So = fuck this guy

    2. Anyone who can’t tell the difference between a victimful (someone offended) and a victimless (no one actually offended) shouldn’t be allowed internet forums or allowed to vote. They just screw up society by making it increasingly totalitarian and authoritarian.

  13. Over the years, we have come to take into account a defendant’s IQ in criminal cases. We understand that someone wired differently should be treated differently.

    It’s time we realized that about child porn possession, too.

    Well, now, wait a minute! Child (I mean of, not by) porn possession is either a victimful crime or not. I happen to think it’s not. Isn’t that the appropriate consider’n? Not how smart the perp is.

  14. I don’t think autism necessarily should make for an exception to the law. I say this because I have autism (Asperger’s, but it’s all diagnosed as autism now), and I can say without a doubt that it hasn’t reduced my capacity for understanding the law. I’m not sure, as an adult, that I would even be considered ‘developmentally disabled’. There are people with MUCH worse issues with social cognition than me, so I wouldn’t put it outside the realm of possibility that it could impair someone’s ability to understand the law. But I don’t think a diagnosis of autism/Asperger’s/whatever always means someone can’t understand the law. If exceptions are to be made, they really need to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

    Rather than making exceptions to looking at images of children that have been, with great subjectivity, been categorized as “pornographic”, it would be better to decriminalize possession itself. Pictures themselves can’t hurt a person. Using children to MAKE pornography shouldn’t be legal; but creating fictional works depicting children sexually. Neither should looking at images of children with a prurient eye (and let’s be clear, the intent that someone looks at an image is what people are really being put on trial for, not the mere existence of the image). Victimless crimes shouldn’t be crimes.

    1. I forgot to add: actual decriminalization seems unlikely in the current atmosphere, so I’m not completely opposed to carving out exceptions. As I’ve mentioned before on another subject, legal exceptions can help lead the way to greater changes in the law down the line.

    2. Picking up your point and perhaps crapping on it…..

      There is a big difference between “Weird guy in IT who puts DnD characters on his monitor” Asperger’s, “Can’t take care of himself and can’t even tie his shoes” Asperger’s and “has the mental capacity of a 4 year old but cannot communicate” autism.

      Each might have issues dealing with adult life, but somewhere along that continuum there has got to be a point where anyone would say “yeah, I know he’s a 30 year old man, but he’s not able to understand the difference between these legal images and these illegal images”. It isn’t over on the Darius end of the scale, but maybe it doesn’t require going all the way to the “requires constant care and institutionalization” end of the scale either.

  15. Can someone explain what benefit there is to caring and nurturing humans with a defect that makes them sexually prey on children?

    1. 3/10. Try harder.

      1. I bet you say that to all your victims.

        Do you want me to call you ‘daddy’?

  16. How important is the “poses no threat” factor? Is it sufficient, or merely necessary? Many consumers of child porn are not actually dangerous, although I question how one can tell with certainty, disabled or not.

    1. When can you ever tell with certainty that any individual person is not dangerous?

  17. I don’t get why the author needed to add in that line “Perhaps he can’t tie a tie”. Just wanted to call him a retard one more time, huh?

  18. Child Porn

    Two 16 year olds sharing a sex tape? CHILD PORN

    Some 17 year old jacking it on cam? CHILD PORN

    A toddler being raped? CHILD PORN

    A kid showing their junk on cam? CHILD PORN

    A cute photo of your kids in the bath, sally’s legs a bit too spread? CHILD PORN

    A child being murdered? A-OKAY

    A child being beat? A-OKAY

    A child being drowned? A-OKAY

    Shall I go on? I think we should understand the ridiculousness of making the mere possession of an image illegal. As we see, it is used to more often arrest kids (sexting and sharing nudes) or the developmentally disabled or for asshole DAs to ruin the lives of families.

    1. A child blown up by the type of politician elected by authoritarian busybodies? A-OKAY.

      Most people don’t see the ridiculousness of it. It’s like drunk driving. It’s not the driving, or even being impaired that gets people upset. It’s the additional factor of alcohol that makes it a greater sin, than, say, driving while sleepy.

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