Josh Hawley questions Ketanji Brown Jackson’s discretion over lenient child pornography sentences

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Senator Josh Hawley finally got the chance to question Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson on her lenient sentences for child pornographers over the course of her career. As Jackson sat before the US Senate for the second day of confirmation hearings after being nominated by President Biden, the two got down to cases.

In the much anticipated questioning, Hawley interrogated Jackson as to who she was more concerned with when issuing sentences for child pornographers, the victims or the perpetrators. In the case of one young man, where sentencing guidelines would have kept him behind bars for multiple years and Jackson sentenced him to only three months, Hawley asked “Is he the victim here or is the victim the victim?”

“I want to talk to you about some of these cases I mentioned yesterday,” Hawley began, “so I know you know which ones I want to talk about the seven cases, child pornography cases, in which you had discretion that came before you. You had discretion to sentence one way or another in the seven cases not every cases.”

“In each of the seven,” Hawley said after noting that in many cases judges do not have that kind of sentencing discretion, “you chose to depart both from the federal guidelines and also from the government’s the prosecutors recommendation.” And he brought up cases, specifically the United States v. Hawkins.

The defendant in this 2013 case was 18 years old. “He uploaded five video files of child pornography to YouTube,” Hawley said, “this is how the police got onto him. He then uploaded another 36 depictions of child porn and other lewd photos of children to his iCloud account. When the police executed a search on his apartment, on his premises, they found 17 videos on his laptop and 16 images of child pornography. All of them very graphic. Some of them involving very young children. 17 videos in particular.” Hawley detailed the videos from the government sentencing memorandum.

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