Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017 (H.R. 1761).
Chairman Goodlatte: H.R. 1761, the “Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017,” fixes a regrettable, judicially-created loophole in the federal production of child pornography statute. In U.S. v. Palomino-Coronado, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction for production of child pornography, citing insufficient evidence. Under the facts of the case, the defendant had engaged in sexual activity with a seven-year-old child, and had taken a picture of himself doing so. However, the Fourth Circuit held that a defendant must initiate sexually illicit conduct with the specific intent to create child pornography. In Palomino’s case, the Court determined that “the single photo is not evidence that Palomino-Coronado engaged in sexual activity with [the child] to take a picture, only that he engaged in sexual activity with [the child] and took a picture.”
Needless to say, this decision has extremely undesirable consequences in the prosecution of the production of child pornography. It has created a new defense, whereby a defendant can merely deny a pre-formed specific intent to record a sexual offense of a minor and escape federal conviction. That is untenable, and clearly contrary to Congress’s intent.
The creation of child pornography must be adequately deterred, to protect children like the seven-year-old Palomino victim. This judicially created hurdle protects her abuser.
I thank Mr. Johnson for introducing this legislation to ensure that sexual predators cannot avoid responsibility for their heinous acts against children. I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.