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Dual effort targets child porn

Legislators are considering increasing state sentences in such cases, but federal prosecution can bring a harsher penalty Andrea Weigl, Staff Writer

Federal and state prosecutors are working together to send pedophiles away for long prison sentences, and, in some cases, are sparing abused children the ordeal of testifying in court.

That is how it worked in the case of Collier Douglas Sessoms, who pleaded guilty in December to federal child pornography charges after admitting to molesting two boys, ages 7 and 8, in Brunswick County.

Sessoms, 31, of Calabash will spend more time in prison than if he had been tried on state charges for distributing and possessing child pornography.

Under North Carolina law, those who distribute child pornography generally face up to 16 months in prison but also can receive probation. Under federal law, they face at least five years in prison. Though state lawmakers are expected this month to propose more prison time for those who make, possess and distribute child pornography, federal law still offers longer sentences.

"We’re saving some people some trauma. We’re going to get a good sentence," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Exum, a federal prosecutor who assists state prosecutors in 44 counties in Eastern North Carolina on child pornography cases.

Exum is the point person at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh for Project Safe Childhood, a U.S. Department of Justice initiative started last year aimed at putting pedophiles in prison for as long as possible. (more…)

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