Ketanji Brown Jackson's claim child pornographers aren't pedophiles disputed by own experts

"I was surprised... that there are people who get involved with this kind of activity who may not be pedophiles," she said at 2012 U.S. Sentencing Commission hearing.

Updated: March 28, 2022 - 2:40am

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Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Joe Biden's Supreme Court nominee, disagreed with her own expert witnesses about the definition of pedophilia during her time as Vice Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, according to hearing transcripts.

Jackson, who testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, has been accused by Republicans of giving lenient sentences to child sex criminals. She defended her actions and said she was "doing what law students do" when she wrote an essay in Harvard Law School criticizing the treatment of sex offenders.

The Biden nominee clashed in February 2012 during a Sentencing Commission hearing with witnesses Gerald Grant, a New York digital forensics investigator, James Fottrell, a U.S. Justice Department expert in criminal child exploitation, and Dr. Gene Abel, the founder of Abel Screening, a medical group that works to identify pedophiles.

"I was surprised at some testimony with respect to the motivations of offenders, and that there are people who get involved with this kind of activity who may not be pedophiles who may not be necessarily interested really in the child pornography but have other motivations with respect to the use of the technology and the being in the group and, you know, there are lots of reasons perhaps why people might engage in this," Jackson in quoted in the transcript as telling the panel.

Jackson asked during the 2012 hearing: "I'm wondering whether you could say that there is a — that there could be a less-serious child pornography offender who is engaging in the type of conduct in the group experience level because their motivation is the challenge, or to use the technology? They're very sophisticated technologically, but they aren't necessarily that interested in the child pornography piece of it?"

DOJ's Fottrell replied he believed it is "difficult" to say that those with only a single illegal encounter are "not dangerous," the transcript stated.

He explained that people who look at child pornography online are exposed to so much more information and a network of other pedophiles, so they are all very likely to become more serious offenders.

She then asked digital forensics investigator Grant, "What factors do you look at to say this person is really serious, as opposed to someone else?"

Grant responded he has not seen "any distinct area that's going to put that person to the next level" as an offender, and the number of files downloaded did not matter.

Later in the hearing, Dr. Abel told the commission that "persistent sexual interest over time equals pedophiles."

"I had mistakingly assumed that child pornography offenders are pedophiles," Jackson said. "So I'm trying to understand this category of non-pedophiles who obtain child pornography. And are those the people who you are saying are the nonsexually motivated offenders?"

One of the witnesses muttered, "um-hmm," according to the transcript, before Jackson asked if she had the right to think like that.

"I think you ought to keep your previous definition, quite frankly," Dr. Abel responded.

"There are individuals who collect. And sometimes they'll collect ten gigs of images, and they won't look at them. They are collectors. But that's kind of rare," he said. "There are people who collect just for collecting purposes, you know, but the majority of these individuals are collecting over time. If they're collecting over time, then they have interest over time. If it's greater than six months, they meet the definition of pedophilia. So that's why I say in general I would keep your old definition as being accurate. But I would agree that there are other reasons that people get involved in looking at child pornography, but I'll put my nickel on pedophilia."

Abel said in a study of child molesters, those who denied acting upon it used excuses "for why they weren't pedophiles."

Mike Davis, former chief counsel for judicial nominations at the Senate Judiciary Committee and founder of the Article III Project that researched Jackson’s Sentencing Commission record, told the John Solomon Reports podcast that the Biden nominee is "dangerous" for her views on child pornography.

"She thinks that people who possess and distribute child pornography, she calls them non-producers. That's left-Wing euphemism for people who sit around and take pleasure watching kids getting raped on the computer screen because that's what child pornography is," Davis said.

"She posited that these people, these child pornographers, are not pedophiles. So, therefore, they're not a danger to kids. And so, therefore, we don't need to put them in prison for as long as Congress has mandated we put them in prison. That's the whole point of all this."

Her expert witnesses told her that she was "completely wrong," Davis said. "Nonetheless, she contradicted the only expert testimony she had... and she made her theory, a key finding of this 2012 Sentencing Commission report."

Despite being told by experts that all child sex criminals are dangerous, she has seemingly stuck to her beliefs that there are various levels of offenders.

If confirmed, Jackson would replace Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is retiring this fall.

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