Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Karen L. Goldstein Featured in Forum of the ATSA

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Goldstein's article "The Uncertain Future of Federal Child Pornography Sentencing" can be found in the spring 2013 Forum published by the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers.

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"reform is necessary in order to arrive at more just federal sentences in this arena"

The Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA) has recently selected an article by California Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Karen L. Goldstein to be published in its quarterly publication, the Forum. In her Los Angeles-based sex crimes defense firm, Goldstein defends clients accused of state and federal sex offenses throughout California with a focus on child pornography crimes in the federal arena. Her article "The Uncertain Future of Federal Child Pornography Sentencing" was published in the spring 2013 edition of the Forum.

ATSA is a multi-disciplinary organization dedicated to understanding the reasons that sexual abuse occurs and how sexual abuse and sex crimes can be prevented. It is made up of physicians, academic researchers, and other concerned professionals. They publish research, promote education and encourage dialogue between professionals and the general public. They also advocate a variety of causes and work on public policy and community strategies that lead to the effective assessment and treatment of individuals who have sexually abused or are at risk to abuse.

The organization was founded and is based in Oregon and has been organizing conferences and publishing research since 1984. It has members from around the world and is committed to reducing the number of sex crimes internationally with a particular focus on the United States. The ATSA Forum often features articles from people in relevant professions but also features writers, such as attorneys, who are from outside the treatment community, but work in an interrelated discipline. Part of the goal is to allow dialogue across disciplines and professional fields.

In her article, Goldstein discusses some of the new findings contained in the 2012 U.S. Sentencing Commission’s Report to Congress on Federal Child Pornography Offenses. Much of the article features her analysis of the potential implications of this report for federal judges, federal defendants and criminal defense attorneys representing clients accused of federal child pornography crimes. She discusses a few of the most problematic aspects of the federal sentencing guidelines with respect to child pornography offenses, including the routine application of enhancements to a defendant's sentence and the inability of the guidelines to account for a defendant’s true culpability. She concludes by expressing both skepticism and optimism for the future of child pornography sentencing and highlights the fact that more meaningful, modern, and nuanced reform is necessary in order to arrive at more just federal sentences in this arena.

In regard to enhancements, Goldstein writes that someone convicted of possessing child pornography on a computer faces a significant enhancement to their sentence. Instead of acting like an enhancement, however, the additional penalties become automatic since, as reported by the U.S, Sentencing Commission data "100% of all child pornography possession offenses involved the use of a computer. Despite this statistical fact—that the use of a computer has literally become synonymous with the commission of a child pornography offense—the use of a computer still increases a defendant’s potential sentence by 1.5 years or more depending on the initial base offense level." Making these sentence enhancements nearly automatic defeats the purpose of having enhancements, Goldstein contends.

Another problematic enhancement involves the downloading of more than 600 illegal images which leads to a nearly automatic and catastrophic sentence. Goldstein argues that "Thousands of images can be downloaded with the click of a button, in a matter of minutes, even if the user only intended to download a few specific images." Having more than 600 images of child pornography can lead to an extended sentence of up to four years. In such an instance, downloading so many images is almost automatic; this makes the enhancement almost automatic as well. These unjust sentences are just a few of the many problems that the Commission reports upon. Goldstein's article delves into many of the Commission's findings and commends aspects of their work and analysis even when she laments whether or not the sentencing guidelines will be amended.

A federal criminal defense lawyer's perspective on the Commission's report may have been particularly attractive to the editors of the ATSA Forum since Goldstein has defended innumerable clients who have faced what she sees as draconian and out-dated sentences. Instead of brutal penalties, the vast majority of ATSA members see understanding, empathy, treatment and dialogue as far more effective strategies for reducing the number of sex crimes. Many clinicians and defense attorneys argue that unreasonable and unjust sentences do nothing to enhance public safety or address the underlying issues that may lead a perpetrator to engage in sexual abuse. Furthermore, many of the sentencing guidelines make all people who possess child pornography equally culpable despite details of their individual circumstances.

Though they have differing foci and work in different fields, Goldstein and the medical and counseling professionals at ATSA seem to be in agreement with one another regarding the need for compassionate, nuanced, and more thoughtful work on federal criminal cases involving child pornography offenses.

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