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Senate advances Stuart bill on sentencing pornographers

Sen. Richard Stuart says a Fredericksburg-area judge recently decided to let a convicted child pornographer serve his mandatory minimum sentences concurrently, meaning the pornographer will serve just ten years in jail.

The prosecutor, Stuart said, thought the state law requiring a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the crime would ensure the defendant was jailed for at least twenty years on four counts, if those sentences had been applied consecutively instead of concurrently.

So Stuart, R-Stafford, has proposed a bill that requires sentences in child pornography cases to run consecutively.

It provides clarity, Stuart said, that if “the legislature has mandated a mandatory sentence, that you’ve got to serve those sentences.”

Normally in the General Assembly, even the hint that a bill would throw the book at child pornographers ensures it’s passage.

But Stuart’s ran into some opposition Friday, when another senator said it would limit judicial discretion.

“This is a bill apparently to deal with an issue where the prosecutor didn’t do it right,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke. “It also straitjackets the judges… I suggest we leave the law the way it is, allow judges to their job.”

Stuart said the legislature removed judicial discretion when it applied mandatory minimum sentences to certain crimes.

The bill passed on a 33-5 vote, and will now go to the House.

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