Watching Child Porn Illegal Again In New York After Cuomo Signs Bill Closing 'Glaring Loophole'

Gov. Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the agreement Thursday at a press conference in Albany.

Viewing child pornography in New York is back to being illegal after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Friday closing a loophole that had made viewing kiddie porn legal in the Empire State.

The New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled viewing child porn is not a crime back in May when it decided the case of a college professor who was caught with kiddie-porn images on his work computer, MSNBC reported at the time.

"Merely viewing Web images of child pornography does not, absent other proof, constitute either possession or procurement within the meaning of our Penal Law," Senior Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick wrote in the majority's opinion. "Rather, some affirmative act is required (printing, saving, downloading, etc.) to show that defendant in fact exercised dominion and control over the images that were on his screen. To hold otherwise, would extend the reach of (state law) to conduct -- viewing -- that our Legislature has not deemed criminal."

Judge Victoria A. Graffeo put the decision's impact more simply, writing, "[T]he purposeful viewing of child pornography on the Internet is now legal in New York." It should be noted that the court urged the state to amend its penal code to criminalize viewing child pornography.

The state did just that after Cuomo signed a bill that amends the state's penal code, closing what he called a "glaring loophole," with violators of the new law facing as long as four years in prison if convicted.

"With the strengthening of these laws, we eliminate any loophole to better protect our children from predators," Cuomo said in a statement. "This new law stops criminals who have been able to escape prosecution and punishment for too long. I applaud [Senate] Majority Leader [Dean] Skelos, [Assembly] Speaker [Sheldon] Silver, and the bill sponsors for their leadership and dedication to keeping our kids safe. By working together, we are ensuring that all New Yorkers, especially children, are kept safe and that justice is rightfully served."

In a statement, Skelos called viewing child porn "a deplorable act. "This new law closes a legal loophole that never should have existed in the first place by imposing tough new criminal penalties on people who view or possess child pornography," he said.

Silver said the new law places "one more safeguard between our children and heinous predators."

New York passed a child porn bill in 1996, which criminalized the possession of child pornography. The court's May decision created the loophole that was fixed by Cuomo signing the bill Friday.

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