Arizona radio station defends public service broadcast on how to hide child pornography

by WorldTribune Staff, May 11, 2017

A Public Service Announcement (PSA) broadcast on an Arizona oldies radio station advised listeners how to hide their child pornography stashes and the station’s owner decried the penalties for possessing the photos as “too harsh,” a report said.

For two years, owner Paul Lotsof aired the PSA on CAVE 97.7 FM, The Washington Post reported on May 10.

The Cochise County sheriff said he formally opened an investigation after a PSA produced by a Benson radio station offered listeners tips on ways to ‘hide’ their child pornography. /3TV/CBS 5)

Related: Unreported: 1,500 pedophile arrests made nationally since Trump took office, February 26, 2017

“In many cases, the penalty for possession of pictures is worse than the penalty for murder,” Lotsof’s PSA to his Arizona audience would say. “You should understand that your Internet provider could report you to the police if they catch you looking at a website featuring naked juveniles.”

Lotsof’s PSA aired without issue until earlier this week, when members of his Tucson-area community of Benson created a petition calling on the Federal Communications Commission to revoke his radio license over the “heinous broadcast.”

“He is enticing people and providing the information that says, ‘Hey, if you’re going to look at child porn, this is what you need to do so the cop doesn’t catch you,’ ” Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said. The Sheriff’s Office has opened an investigation into the PSA.

Though he pulled the PSA from the airwaves, Lotsof continues to insist Arizona’s penalties for possession of child pornography are far too harsh.

“Nobody put me up to it, and nobody paid,” Lotsof told the Associated Press. “My feeling is that these people don’t deserve life in prison just because they have pictures of naked juveniles.”

Arizona’s sentencing guidelines for possessing, creating or distributing child pornography are among the most severe in the nation, the Post report said. Sexual exploitation of a minor is a class 2 felony in Arizona and carries a minimum sentence of 10 years per violation, according to the state’s criminal code.

“There’s no picture in the world that’s that dangerous,” Lotsof told NBC affiliate News 4 Tucson earlier this week.

Lotsof claimed there was “no connection” between the people who create and distribute child pornography and those who only possess it.

“The difference is one case, you’re molesting children and abusing them, causing children to do things that are not natural for children to do,” Lotsof told New 4 Tucson, “and the other case, they’re just possessing pictures.”

In an email to the Arizona Republic, Lotsof said his PSA “does not condone child pornography in any way,” but “merely points out that the penalties for possession of child pornography are draconian.” The victims, Lotsof said, “are the people serving these incredibly long sentences.”

Carol Capas, a spokeswoman with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, told the Arizona Republic it is “sickening” to hear people say “a picture isn’t a crime.”

“It is a crime,” Capas said. “Those children are victims of a crime.”

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, data suggests that at least 100,000 American children are sexually exploited each year. A study of those perpetrators arrested for possessing child pornography found that 40 percent had also been accused of raping children, the Post report said.

“Child victims suffer at the hands of the offender who sexually exploited them,” the center’s website explains. “This harm is compounded when the offender memorializes the victimization by taking photos or videos and then distributing these images on the Internet where additional offenders use them for purposes of sexual gratification.”

Dannels said that his office “will continue to seek legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content that has already been released and to ensure this kind of information is not released again.”

“This is very disturbing to know that a member of our local media, who should be one of the responsible groups of people to provide factual information to our public to keep them safe, is promoting and encouraging criminal behavior,” Dannels said, describing the PSA as “disgusting and unacceptable” propaganda that “encourages evil behavior.”

“Freedom of speech does not include telling people to commit crimes,” he said, “and continuing to pass on this information could lead to judicial action being taken.”

Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre told the Associated Press that Lotsof’s PSA was protected speech under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.

“This individual just happens to have a platform that maybe others don’t and is advocating beliefs that are personally repugnant to me,” McIntyre said.

The Federal Communications Commission does not enforce requirements or restrictions on the content of PSA’s, spokeswoman Janice Wise told the Associated Press.

“It’s up to the station to determine their (community’s) public interest,” she said.