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Supreme Court upholds child pornography law

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court upheld a strict federal antipornography law Monday, ruling that criminalizing the "promotion" of child pornography does not stifle free speech.

The court, in a 7-2 decision, rejected suggestions that Congress had gone too far by making it a federal crime to advertise or promote child porn.

Instead, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, said Congress had not run afoul of the First Amendment.

"The act before us does not prohibit advocacy of child pornography, but only offers to provide or requests to obtain it," Scalia wrote. "There is no doubt that this prohibition falls well within constitutional bounds. …We hold that offers to provide or requests to obtain child pornography are categorically excluded from the First Amendment."

Critics had suggested the law could chill free expression, including racy movies or even their critiques.

But Scalia rejected those arguments.

The case began with the 2004 arrest of Michael Williams, a former Miami police officer who was charged with both "promoting" and possessing child pornography. Williams was living in Key Largo at the time of his arrest.

A special agent with the U.S. Secret Service entered an Internet chat room and spotted a suggestive message from Williams, according to court documents.

The court also:

• Restored the full 22-year prison term given to Algerian Ahmed Ressam, the so-called "millennium bomber," who had planned to set off explosives at Los Angeles International Airport.

• Said John Demjanjuk, 88, an alleged former Nazi death camp guard, has exhausted all legal avenues for trying to remain in the United States. A 2005 deportation order would send him to Germany, Poland or the Ukraine.

• Allowed Virginia to set an execution date for a death row inmate challenging the state's method of lethal injection as painful and inhumane.

Supreme Court upholds child pornography law 05/19/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:58am]
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