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Rep. Marcy Toepel wants tougher porn laws, penalties

Published On: Aug 13 2013 03:38:54 PM CDT

HARRISBURG, Pa. -

 Allegations of child pornography against a local athletic coach illustrate the need to strengthen Pennsylvania’s laws to protect children, said Rep. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery).

Toepel is prime sponsor of House Bill 321, awaiting action in the Senate, which calls for stricter penalties against those convicted of child pornography charges.

The bill is modeled after federal sentencing guidelines, which establish greater sentences based upon aggravating factors, such as the age of the child, number of images possessed, and the nature and character of the abuse.

“Children who are exploited for the purposes of making child pornography are victimized over and over and over again," said Toepel in a release.

"They are victimized each and every time someone downloads and views that image. It’s time to ensure the punishment fits the seriousness of the crime.”

Thomas Porter, an assistant wrestling coach at Neshaminy High School in Montgomery County, has been charged with uploading child pornography on his computer.

Toepel introduced her bill based on recommendations by the Task Force on Child Protection, which was created in response to high-profile sex abuse cases in Pennsylvania. The task force made the recommendation after discovering sentencing for child pornography offenders varied widely and sometimes amounted to nothing more than probation.

During the first six months of the 2013-14 session, the House has adopted nearly two dozen bills aimed at improving the state’s child protection laws.

On the criminal justice side, the proposals deal with the state’s Crimes Code and expansion of and funding for child advocacy centers. The centers offer comprehensive treatment programs for abused children by bringing doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and law enforcement to the child in a safe and nurturing environment.

Other bills in the package would enhance criminal penalties for serious bodily injury of a child under the age of 12 and make it a crime to intimidate or retaliate against a witness in child abuse cases.