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New York court rules viewing child porn not a crime

The New York Court of Appeals dismissed two child porn possession charges because the defendant only looked at the material.

The line for acceptable behavior when it comes to child pornography just got blurrier in New York.

The state's highest court ruled Wednesday that viewing child porn online isn't a crime.

The decision came down in a hearing for James Kent. In 2007 a virus scan of Kent's computer uncovered child porn. Kent, 65, a former professor of public administration at Marist College, was subsequently convicted of 134 counts of possessing child porn and two counts of procuring it. He was sentenced to one to three years imprisonment.

The New York Court of Appeals' ruling dismissed two of Kent's possession charges because he only looked at the material.

While it might sound like odd reasoning, the court based its decision on New York's definition of possession and procurement under the law.

In order to prove either possession or procurement of child porn, it must be shown that a defendant had dominion or control over the material.

In its opinion, the court reasoned that dominion or control required Kent take "some affirmative act" to obtain the child porn. This could be anything from printing to saving or downloading the offending material.

The reason the court overturned two of Kent's charges was that in those cases the child porn was found in his computer's Web cache. The judges viewed this as different from downloading the material because, in essence, it didn't show he actually had control of the images.

While the court agreed that child porn was an abomination, they argued holding Kent guilty for his Web cache would overextend New York law.

Kent claimed the images were part of a research project and that he "abhorred" child pornography.

While viewing child porn is not a crime in New York, it remains illegal under federal law.

 
 
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