McEntee: Ms. Herbert, what about child porn victims?
In her letter seeking leniency for a convicted child pornographer, Utah first lady Jeanette Herbert claims to know lots of young people who have been ensnared by an addiction to pornography.
Does she also understand the victims of such crimes? How their lives and psyches are stained by sexual abuse and exploitation? How, even with therapy, many may never trust anyone again?
The case involved Ryan Gregory Johnson, of Spanish Fork, who posed as a 16-year-old girl and enticed at least 10 boys to send him photos of their genitalia and faces in return for explicit photos of an "unidentified female" and promises of sex.
It escalated, as porn addiction nearly always does. Johnson wanted more explicit photos and threatened to publicly share the photos he already had. That's called "sextortion," and his sentence of 25 years included an enhancement for distribution.
But Jeanette Herbert, who contends that "good kids" can be caught up by porn, wanted mercy for Johnson. No prison, but perhaps "programs that help with addiction that would prove more beneficiary [sic] than prison."
And, she added, "we may need to change legislation." Oh, and that Johnson should accept "some degree" of punishment for his crime.
What the first lady doesn't understand is that countless boys and girls are raped by men who record the crimes for posting on Internet sites. It's a coldly vicious world. Porn addicts don't care that their victims too often suffer lifetimes of shame, guilt and terror.
This is not, as Jeanette Herbert put it, merely a "problem that adversely affects our society in many different ways."
In fact, Johnson's attorney, Susanne Gustin, wrote in court documents that he had been molested as a boy by an uncle. He became withdrawn and was bullied at school. Still, he married and is a father.
In all, Johnson victimized 17 boys between ages 12 and 18. He also had a sexual relationship with a minor in 2010 and pleaded no contest to that charge. Treatment did not deter him from continuing his involvement in child pornography. Absent prison, I don't know what would.
Jeanette Herbert would do well to contact Utah's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, whose officers track and arrest child pornographers who produce horrific images and videos available on the Internet.
She could talk to state and federal prosecutors who take those cases to court, or the doctors, nurses and therapists who treat children who have suffered immeasurably.
She could spend time with men of the organization MaleSurvivor, who were sexually abused as children and spent much of their lives in anguish they never revealed until they found help.
Utah's first lady is right about this much: Our legal system is not just "one size fits all law and punishment." But hard time is the only way to punish those who drug, rape and torture children for their enjoyment.
"Some degree of punishment" is not enough.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @pegmcentee.
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