Uttering that sentence about a picture of a sandwich in the U.S. could get you 20 years in prison for 'pandering.'
On October 30, the law providing the set-up to the headline -- the 2003 "PROTECT Act" -- was defended by the Bush administration before the U.S. Supreme Court. Last year, a
unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta struck down sections of the law. Many observers predict the high court will reinstate them, in a case that could be
a harbinger for the fate of the porn record-keeping rules recently declared unconstitutional by the 6th Circuit in Ohio.
Michael William was challenging his conviction for "pandering." He had claimed to an undercover cop that he had sexually explicit photos of his daughter, photos that, in fact he didn't
have and didn't exist. He was convicted anyway (for those claims and possessing other illegal porn) and sentenced to five-year terms on each charge.
person "panders" if he "advertises, promotes, presents, distributes, or solicits" any "material or purported material" in a manner that "reflects the belief" or is "intended to cause
another to believe" that what's being referred to is a fictional drawing or photo of a minor engaged in sexual conduct.
In April 2006, the 11th Circuit threw out Williams's pandering conviction, citing the high court's 2002 ruling in
Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition (the same group fighting the new
onerous record-keeping regulations): "The right to think is the beginning of freedom, and speech must be protected from the government because speech is the beginning of thought."
Sometime before its recess next June, a Supreme Court now less likely to wax so poetic over the First Amendment will rule whether people should go to jail for calling a ham sandwich
a masturbating high-school quarterback.
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