Sean Michael Robinson: Idaho School Teacher Sentenced for Possession of “Obscene” Images of Simpsons Characters

Posted by on January 20th, 2011 at 4:06 PM

On Jan. 18, former Idaho middle-school-teacher Steven Kutzner was sentenced by Judge Edward J. Lodge to 15 months in federal prison for the “Possession of Obscene Visual Representation of the Sexual Abuse of Children,” having pleaded guilty to the charge Oct. 13. His prison term is to be followed by three years of Supervised Release, mandatory sex offender treatment, and a host of other strictures on his movements and activities.

Kutzner was prosecuted for the possession of 70 digital images, alternately described in the court documents as “animated” and “cartoon” images depicting various sex acts between minors, adults and animals. The images specifically described in the plea agreement all involve characters from the Simpsons animated television show.

Kutzner’s counsel, D.C. Carr, told TCJ that he and prosecutor Jim Peters discussed the implications of the statute itself in the course of the plea agreement. “We talked about the First Amendment implications at length,” said Carr.  “Painfully at length. This statute puts the government in places it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, in this case, they had the leverage.” The plea agreement that Kutzner and prosecutors entered into ensured that Kutzner would only be prosecuted for possession, and not receiving, “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.” Accepting the plea agreement enabled Kutzner to avoid the five-year minimum sentence that would have come with the latter charge. “If this was the only charge, I would have taken this all the way,” said Carr. “And this statute needs to be taken all the way.”

The statute under which Kutzner was charged was created as part of the PROTECT Act of 2003, and is the second attempt at outlawing “virtual child pornography.” The first attempt, the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996, was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional in 2002, for being overly broad. The PROTECT Act statute narrowed the scope of the previous legislation by including an obscenity clause. As of yet, the Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the new statute.

The Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Custom Enforcement were led to Kutzner by the German Federal Police, who reported that his IP address was involved in sharing child pornography on the “eDonkey2000” network. Almost a year later, DHS/ICE agents contacted Kutzner at his home, where he allowed them to search his computer. Investigators found more than 8,000 images described in the plea agreement as “Child Erotica,” or, “non nude or semi nude photographs and videos of children in sexually suggestive poses that are not themselves images of child pornography, but still fuel the sexual fantasies of pedophiles and others who have developed a sexual interest in minors.” After agreeing to the plea deal, Kutzner admitted during his court-mandated psychosexual evaluation to viewing “child pornography … for approximately eight years.” Although the additional images and admissions were discussed in the sentencing memorandum, they were not directly related to the statute that Kutzner pleaded guilty to violating.

When asked if Peters was pleased with the outcome of the case, he told TCJ, “I’ve been doing this for 33 years, so I’m long past the personalization stage. I thought the sentence was fair for the circumstances. It was one of the lower sentences we’ve seen, three months under the lower section of the sentencing guidelines.” Peters stated that Judge Lodge credited Kutzner verbally for having “immediately taken responsibility” and resigned from his teaching position.

Kutzner is the first person in the District of Idaho to be sentenced for violating the statute, and according to Idaho Assistant District Attorney Jim Peters, it is unlikely he will be the last.

TCJ.com will provide more in-depth analysis of this case and its implications late next week. A pre-sentencing analysis of this case appeared at the TCJ Hooded Utilitarian blog in November.

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2 Responses to “Sean Michael Robinson: Idaho School Teacher Sentenced for Possession of “Obscene” Images of Simpsons Characters”

  1. Mike Hunter says:

    Roland Kelts reports at http://www.tcj.com/manga/animemanga-porn-battle-heats-up-in-japan/ on…
    ——————–
    Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s successful passage last month of legislation targeting manga, anime and video games for vaguely defined “morally offensive” imagery…

    The bill does nothing to address the production or possession of live-action depictions of rape or child pornography.
    ——————–
    (emphasis added)

    Bizarro: “Makes sense to ME!”

    ———————
    Although no child pornography was found on the computer, investigators found more than 8,000 images described in the plea agreement as “Child Erotica,” or, “non nude or semi nude photographs and videos of children in sexually suggestive poses that are not themselves images of child pornography, but still fuel the sexual fantasies of pedophiles and others who have developed a sexual interest in minors.”
    ———————-

    But aren’t there tons of images of kids out there which, though “G-rated,” could “still fuel the sexual fantasies of pedophiles”??

    …Never mind young Jodie Foster’s Coppertone ad: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_aNvKPzkz-Bg/Sx1Yuzm3pWI/AAAAAAAAOtA/wNBMHF3AMXA/s400/080803_coppertone_girl.jpg . (As a kid, I saw this used in a giant, motorized billboard in Miami, where the frisky cocker spaniel would make her bathing-suit bottom go UP and DOWN…)

    ————————
    A pre-sentencing analysis of this case appeared at the TCJ Hooded Utilitarian blog in November.
    ————————

    Alack, clicking on the HU link gives a message of “404 File Not Found.” But I did a little digging, and here’s a functioning link to what I imagine is the piece in question: http://www.tcj.com/hoodedutilitarian/2010/11/illustrating-this-article-might-make-me-a-criminal/

    As I’ve mentioned earlier, if we’re going to make depicting illicit sex amongst cartoon characters a crime, why not make drawing violence equally prison-worthy?

    Would this – http://www.tvacres.com/images/itchy_scratchy2.gif – make ” ‘Simpsons’ Animators Sentenced to Prison for cruelty to Animals”?