2011-03-17 / Local & State

Court Tosses Lengthy Pa. Child Porn Sentence

EASTON, Pa. (AP) – An appeals court has tossed out what it called a life sentence for an eastern Pennsylvania man convicted of possession of child pornography, but it upheld the sentence of the HIV-positive defendant in the rape of a teenage girl.

Shaun Patrick Austin, 26, of Bath, was convicted in 2009 of possessing 96 images of child pornography. Three months later, he was convicted of raping a 12-yearold girl. Northampton County Judge Edward Smith sentenced Austin to 72 to 192 years on the child pornography conviction.

The Pennsylvania Superior

Court called that an abuse of discretion Friday, saying Austin was “guaranteed a life sentence for nonviolent crimes.’’

“The possession of child pornography, albeit a deplorable act, does not constitute a physical offense against a person ...’’ the court said. “While the business of child pornography exploits children, the mere possession of child pornography is a nonviolent crime.’’

The Superior Court ordered Smith to resentence Austin in the child pornography case. The appeals court upheld the sentence of 15 to 40 years imposed in the rape case.

As he sentenced Austin in the child pornography case, Smith called the lengthy term necessary to protect the public.

“I am convinced that if you are released from prison, the children of our community would be immediately endangered and there would be nothing we could do,’’ Smith told the defendant. “I am convinced that no amount of rehabilitation in this case would be enough to protect the community.’’

Assistant District Attorney Patricia Broscius said she is considering appealing the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

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