A former Petersburg School District employee was recently sentenced to 12 years in federal prison after authorities discovered he possessed 2,000 images and 39 videos depicting child pornography. Authorities also identified 27 children who Peterson photographed through a hole in a wall “leading to a gym used by visiting school sports teams in various stages of undress.”
Some of these images were used as online currency for trade with other pedophiles. The images of these youths will exist online forever. Some of the victims and their families will never know — not every youth could be identified.
It would be facile to say that Tye Leif Petersen never raped or physically harmed the children, so the case isn’t that bad. That’s what Petersen’s public defender wrote to U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess when asking for leniency.
“He has never harmed a child; never touched a child; never taken any step beyond viewing images through computer or camera lens,” stated a memo from Assistant Federal Public Defender Cara McNamara. “This is an important distinction when considering an appropriate sentence.”
A child predator is a child predator. Period.
Petersen began collecting child pornography in 2007 and took pictures of local students without their knowledge as recently as a day before his October 2013 arrest. By trading images with other pedophiles, Petersen was providing a market for the sort of people who kidnap, drug, rape and exploit youths for profit. He was part of the demand for what they supply. The youths in the locker room were not the only people harmed by Petersen’s actions. Children are kidnapped, hurt or otherwise injured around the world daily because of the appetite for child pornography. By dealing in pornography, Petersen was contributing to the danger faced by children around the world. Though he never left Petersburg, Petersen was contributing to problems in St. Petersburg as much as if he was there himself.
We appreciate the right to a fair trial, and for individuals like Petersen to have legal representation, but for an attorney to make light of such heinous behavior denies a serious issue. We’re shocked, frankly, that McNamara believed there was no direct harm by Petersen’s actions. If that philosophy were followed, our courts would show leniency to drug dealers who don’t physically insert syringes or forcefeed OxyContin to buyers.
Not that we need to remind anyone, but Alaska has a serious problem with sexual assault. More than 9 percent of Alaska youths experience some form of sexual violence, according to the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
Those who enable the sexual exploitation of youths shouldn’t be separated from those committing the acts. In both scenarios, you have helpless victims who will spend years, if not decades, coming to terms with what happened to them.
We’re glad Judge Burgess saw through the smoke and mirrors and imposed the sentence he did. Those who prey on others, whether children or adults, should receive the harshest sentence available by law. There are no shades of gray here. We have a pedophile and his victims, it’s as simple as that. We see no “distinction” deserving leniency, and our society shouldn’t either.
— Juneau Empire,