Five Questions With Child Porn Prosecutors: Dealing With Stomach-Turning Evidence

Categories: Courts, Crime

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How do you handle the subject of child porn at a cocktail party?
Prosecuting those who produce or enjoy child pornography is a vitally important yet seemingly horrible job -- to do it, you must face looking at the evidence.

In some cases it's "easy" -- some child-porn consumers are like baseball-card collectors and aim to get every video or photo in, say, what law-enforcement officials have labeled the "Vicky" series. So the material is familiar after a while.

But then you can stumble on something new, and maybe a detail hits you and you are all of a sudden stunned and revolted as if it's the first time seeing horrific images of a 14-month-old-girl getting raped or a terrified toddler in a bondage scene.

How do you deal with that? We talked to Sherri Zack and Robert Stabe, two veteran federal prosecutors at the Houston division of the U.S. Attorney's Office, where at any given time there may be 30 or so active cases under indictment. (We edited and condensed the interview.)

Hair Balls: How do you deal with having to look at that evidence?
SZ: It's always difficult, and it doesn't matter how many times you've seen it, it's difficult every time. I think my reaction is the same as anyone else who had to see something that horrific; I try to limit how much I have to look. I limit to look at only what I absolutely have to.

RB: I kind of look to see what type of images in general there are -- are there a lot of bondage images, or are there a lot of really small toddlers and elementary-school age kids as opposed to pre-teen type age, just get an idea of that. But we just look at what we need to look at.

HB: The thing to me would be seeing some of these kids' eyes -- the idea of it, that would just freak me out. Are there things that just get to you every so often?
RB: I can look at things and it gets put away in a spot -- I still recall images and describe to you want I've seen, but I don't talk about it at home. Sometimes I come across a girl that was, say, particularly cute that I remember and was just thinking, "Wow." These guys sometimes try to dress up these videos with music backgrounds and while we do see a lot of the same images, I'm still -- I don't guess surprised -- but it's more surprising when I see images I haven't seen before. When I come across one I haven't seen, it's more surprising or disturbing.

SZ: Some, like he said -- a particularly cute child or there could just be something that sticks with you. Some are more haunting than others. You mentioned "eyes." I feel the way Bob does, you leave it here [at work] as best you can. It's not that you flip a switch, but it's not a pleasant topic to talk about, you're not going to go home and share that with spouse.

HB: Do defendants tend to fit a type?
SZ: It's a very nondiscriminatory offender list. They can be anything, I mean, you name it: engineers, doctors, lawyers, military, unemployed, retired. There doesn't seem to be any particular age parameter or anything other than most are male.

HB: What does the reaction of a defendant tend to be? "My life is over"? Do spouses tend to appear in court?
RB: There is that reaction. There is also the concern, we haven't had it too much in our area, concern with the committing suicide. I mean it has happened here in the Houston area, it has happened around the United States. So I know I have had discussions with law enforcement when we have had that come up in a statement.

We have had spouses appear in court. Spouses, mothers, fathers.

HB: If you're at a cocktail party and someone asks what you do, do you just say "prosecutor"? I can't imagine something stopping conversation more than child pornography.


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Bobbobertson
Bobbobertson

I like the "It's incredibly rewarding" statement.  I wish that I could lie for a living, destroy families, humanity and physiologically torture people to the brink of suicide in my job.  If you want know the TRUTH of what child porn really is, read wikileaks.  It you want to know the TRUTH of these prosecutions read up on US Sentencing Commission articles:  These case are indefensible and never go to Jury - Prosecutes (lifeforms who strive for case "wins" in lieu of justice) never see the images.  The concept of destroying people/families who may just need physiological help to vindicate images, exchanged hundreds of times every second of every day, is draconian and border-line insanity.  Even most of the Federal judges hate dishing out the draconian sentencing required by sentencing guidelines.

Reflusso Gastrico
Reflusso Gastrico

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