WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed today to decide the constitutionality of a federal child-pornography law.
The issue arose in the case of Michael Williams, whose conviction in Florida for promoting child porn was reversed by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The appeals court panel found the pandering provision of the PROTECT Act of 2003 was overbroad and impermissibly vague, saying that it criminalizes the speech of someone who touts material as child pornography when in fact it is clean or nonexistent.
In the appeals court's view, the pandering provision could apply to an e-mail entitled "Good pics of kids in bed" sent by a grandparent, with innocent pictures attached of grandchildren in pajamas.
One sender might be a proud grandparent while another might be a convicted child molester who hopes to trade for more graphic photos with like-minded recipients, the appeals court said.
In asking the high court to take the case, the Bush administration said the 11th Circuit read the law's language more broadly than is warranted.
Congress made clear that "efforts to stimulate, feed or capitalize on a market for what purports to be child pornography deserve no sanctuary," the U.S. Solicitor General's office, the administration's lawyer before the justices, said in court papers.
Authorities arrested Williams in an undercover operation aimed at combating child exploitation on the Internet. A Secret Service agent engaged Williams in an Internet chat room where they swapped non-pornographic photographs. After the initial photo exchange, Williams allegedly posted seven images of actual minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Agents who executed a search warrant found 22 child-porn images in Williams' home.
The case is U.S. v. Williams, 06-694.