Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

keyboardWith a major legislative deadline looming the end of this week, the media has increased its coverage of Attorney General McKenna's push to protect children from on-line sexual exploitation.

Bipartisan bills introduced in the House of Representatives (HB 2424) and the state Senate (SB 6397, which is expected to be formally amended to adopt language from AG request bill, SB 6201 ) would update Washington law prohibiting possession of child pornography to reflect the growing trend of viewing, but not downloading, these images or videos on-line.

According to a 2005 study by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), a sample of 1,713 child pornography arrests showed that 53 percent of those arrested were also charged with actual or attempted sexual abuse of children. A second study shows that most of those arrested for possessing child pornography had images of children who had not yet reached puberty. In fact, 58 percent of those images were of children under 5, including infants.

The bills sprang from the recommendations of Attorney General McKenna's Youth Internet Safety Task Force where the law enforcement committee reported an alarming advances in technology that allow images of child rape and sexual assault to be traded across the Internet without ever needing to download them.

Prosecutor Lisa Johnson brought copies of these images with her to Olympia to demonstrate to lawmakers the depravity of those who deal in or view them.

"We routinely see people who possess hundreds of these types of images. As disturbing and disgusting as they are, I would invite you, encourage you, to actually look at them to know what we are actually dealing with because I don't think it's something the public really does understand. They're not the pictures probably every parent took of their child in the bathtub."

These bills would upgrade the state's ability to combat the rape and molestation of children by pursuing abusers who video-record their crimes, and the underground market that trades in the resulting images. The law would:

  • Redefine the felony crime of possession of depictions of child pornography to include deliberately viewing those
    images of child sexual abuse over the Internet.
  • Affirmatively reset the unit of prosecution in child pornography cases back to the nationally recognized per-image standard.
  • Protect non-commissioned law enforcement personnel from prosecution when viewing depictions during investigations.

Special thanks to the 35 sponsors of HB 2424 from both parties in the House of Representatives: Reps. O'Brien, Pearson, Hurst, Takko, Herrera, Chandler, Ross, Rodne, Dammeier, Condotta, Shea, Klippert, Smith, Walsh, Parker, McCune, Campbell, Johnson, Eddy, Morrell, Kelley, Short, Sullivan, Conway, Kagi, Roach, Kristiansen, Bailey, Haler, Schmick, Ericks, Warnick, Ormsby, Moeller, Hope.

More thanks to the 21 sponsors of SB 6201 from both parties in the Senate: Kline, Hargrove, Sheldon, Brandland, Holmquist, Pflug, McCaslin, King, Becker, Regala, Keiser, Delvin, Swecker, Rockefeller, Tom, Kohl-Welles, McAuliffe, Kilmer, Hewitt, Stevens, Gordon.

We also appreciate the leadership of House and Senate Judiary Committee chairs, Rep. Chris Hurst and Sen. Adam Kline for hearing these bills in their committees.

The Legislature nearly passed this proposal in 2009. The time has come to pass it now to further protect children from this horrible crime.