By Mackenzie Herring
Anthony Weiner, charged with the transfer of obscene material to a minor, received a set prison term of 21 months on Sept. 25. Weiner was charged in 2016 after his laptop was seized. The laptop contained evidence of explicit photos and messages sent to a 15 year old girl. At the time, Weiner was aware the girl he had been in contact with was in high school and she had also mentioned applying for her driving permit. Weiner is clearly a man of privilege and notoriety. I worry that this relatively lenient sentence will set a new national standard or baseline as his trial and sentence garnered national coverage and attention.
I have seen firsthand the effect a scandal like this can have on a community. The principal of a high school near my hometown in Minnesota was arrested for the possession of child pornography. His son was a student at the high school and their whole family was heavily involved in school events. One friend of mine, who had worked with the principal on the school’s student and staff boards, was particularly shaken. She was disgusted by all of the interactions she had with him, and by the impact his crime had on her fellow students.
While it may be difficult to quantify the damage a crime like this can have on the general public, federal statute states that the heaviest sentence for Weiner’s crime is 10 years in prison, and Weiner has been sentenced to just 21 months.
Not only was Weiner’s punishment far too short, but the severity of this crime is rarely met with adequate sentencing. This is often due to the defendant being non-violent, but I find it a difficult argument to make once you consider the emotional harm a crime like this can bring the victim, their family and the community.
In 2014 a man in Portland was busted by an undercover cop for having obtained explicit images of underage girls. He was tried, convicted and received a sentence of 12 months and one day.
The particularly concerning effect of these lenient sentences is the impression they leave on the public: the justice system focuses more on the treatment of offenders than protection and justice for victims. The communities that are affected by crimes like this sometimes never recover. They certainly deserve more consideration when determining the length of the punishment. On average, higher sentencing for these crimes would better represent the unwavering hate held by the American people.
It’s easy to become desensitized to cases that are so popularized by mass media, but for crimes such as these it becomes increasingly more important to remember those impacted by such a personal offense. The conviction of such a high profile individual is a step forward, but the public must realize and acknowledge the effect privilege has on our nation’s judicial system. Crimes of this nature are horrendous, and in the long term, this lenient sentence will not be enough.