Walker signs bill strengthening child porn consequences

MILWAUKEE — One of the seven bills Governor Walker signed into law Monday, April 9th is the direct result of a FOX6 investigation. It all started back in 2006, when FOX6 investigator Bryan Polcyn made a troubling discovery. Now, that discovery has changed state law.

For years, some of the state’s leading authorities on internet crimes against children have expressed concern that those who drive the demand for child pornography are getting off easy. “These people are not getting prison sentences,” DCI Agent Eric Szatkowski said.

It was the FOX6 investigators who did the research to provide it. In 2006, the FOX6 investigators found that 75 percent of those convicted of possessing child pornography in Wisconsin did not get prison time.

Just a few months later, Governor Doyle signed a bill creating a new, three-year minimum sentence for anyone caught with child porn. “I don’t want them out on the street. I don’t want them to be able to contact my kids,” Rep. Sue Jeskowitz (R – Menomonee Falls) said.

That bill left judges a gaping loophole, because the minimum sentence was merely presumptive, not mandatory. That means a judge can give less, as long as he explains why.

In 2009, FOX6 investigators again sifted through thousands of court records once again and found judges giving internet predators a slap on the wrist, sending just one out of three child porn convicts to prison.

South Milwaukee Assemblyman Mark Honadel was determined to fix the system. Since 2009, he has introduced bill after bill aimed at making the presumptive three-year minimum sentence mandatory. “There’s some things you just can’t give up on. If you truly believe in your heart that this is the way it should be, you have to be patient and wait for politics to line up,” Honadel said.

Monday, April 9th, Walker signed Honadel’s bill into law. “It’s about protecting those who are vulnerable,” Walker said. “Finally, after this four to six year journey, we’ve got this to come to a close,” Honadel said.

That means judges no longer have a choice – if you get caught with child porn, you go to prison – no exceptions.

The bill also creates a mandatory five year prison sentence for sexual exploitation of a child, or use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. The last would apply to cases where a predator meets a child on the internet, then arranges for an in-person sexual encounter.

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