Judge Jackson on Tuesday delivered a lengthy and emphatic rebuttal to Republican allegations that she has been lenient in sentencing defendants in child abuse cases, using her first chance to hear the case before the Senate Judiciary Committee to claim that “nothing further from the truth.”
Senator Richard Durbin, Illinois Democrat and committee chair, eased the subject for Judge Jackson by asking her what was going through her mind Monday as she sat listening, as her family watched as a host of Republicans accused her. coddled sex offenders in her statements and sentencing advisories. She clearly anticipated the question and used the moment to provide a straightforward answer that telegraphed some of her anger at those attacks.
“I thought nothing could be further from the truth,” Judge Jackson said. “These are some of the most difficult cases for a judge to deal with because we are talking about child sexual abuse,” she said.
Judge Jackson pushed back forcefully on the idea that she had any tolerance for such crimes, calling them “sickening and blatant.” And she has explained extensively how she arrived at her verdicts in the relevant cases.
“I am imposing a strict penalty and any additional restrictions that the law provides,” Judge Jackson said. “These people cannot use computers in a normal way for decades. I impose all those restrictions because I understand how important, how harmful, how terrible this crime is.”
And Judge Jackson said she is working to make sure child sexual abusers understand the devastating impact of their actions on survivors, by sharing the story of a victim who developed agoraphobia and was unable to leave her home.
“She thinks everyone she meets will have seen her pictures on the internet at the most vulnerable time of her life. So she’s paralyzed,” Judge Jackson said. “I’m telling that story to every child porn suspect as part of my sentencing so they understand what they’ve done.”
Several Republicans have misleadingly claimed that Judge Jackson, as a member of a federal sentencing commission, has pushed for reduced sentences for such defendants and, as a judge, has handed down sentences in such cases that were shorter than the guidelines set out in existing statutes.
Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley led that charge, write on Twitter that Judge Jackson “has a pattern of releasing child pornography offenders for their horrific crimes, both as judges and policymakers.”
On Monday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Republican from Tennessee, said from the podium that Judge Jackson had a “consistent pattern of giving child porn offenders lighter sentences. On average, you sentence child pornography suspects to more than five years below the minimum sentence recommended in the sentencing guidelines. And you have publicly stated that it is a mistake to assume that child pornography offenders are pedophiles.”
Both senators’ claims distort Judge Jackson’s views and her approach to sentencing. Under existing guidelines, there is no mandatory minimum penalty for possession of such material, but a minimum of five years applies for receipt, transportation or distribution.
On Tuesday, Judge Jackson said the existing statutes do not necessarily call for “the highest possible penalty” but to “impose a penalty that is “sufficient, but not greater than is necessary to further the purpose of the sentence.”