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Journalist reports to prison to begin sentence for child porn trafficking

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    NMU         MARYLAND         Newsgathering         Nov 20, 2000    

Journalist reports to prison to begin sentence for child porn trafficking

  • Larry Matthews reported to prison today after exhausting his appeals over a conviction that arose from his research for a news story.

Freelance journalist Larry Matthews reported to a federal prison today to begin an 18-month sentence for violating child pornography laws.

Officials at the Federal Corrections Institution in Schuylkill County, Pa. confirmed that Matthews had voluntarily reported to the facility.

Matthews will spend his time in the minimum security work camp on the prison grounds, according to his attorney, Beth Farber.

Matthews pleaded guilty in July 1998 to one count of receiving and one count of transporting pornographic depictions of minors after a trial judge refused to allow him to raise a First Amendment argument before the jury. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond (4th Cir.) upheld the denied argument, which left Matthews without a defense.

Matthews claimed he was working on a freelance article about pedophiles and the FBI agents who pursue them online. Matthews admitted he traded the pornography online, but said he did it to establish credibility with pedophiles.

Farber said she is convinced that Matthews was working as a journalist when he sent the images and believes the government has made a scapegoat of her client.

“They completely ruined his life in my opinion,” Farber said. “All they have to do is call you a pedophile and your life is ruined.”

On Oct. 2, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review Matthews’ case and he was subsequently fired from his temporary position with National Public Radio.

“NPR has supported the effort of Larry Matthews, a temporary employee, to assert certain First Amendment issues as a defense to his criminal conviction,” NPR said in a released statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court having denied review of his case, Mr. Matthews’ legal process is now ended. Consistent with established policy, NPR has chosen not to renew his assignment.”

Farber said Matthews’ child pornography conviction requires that he be held in a maximum security penitentiary, but she was able to have the requirement waived by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Matthews can have his sentence reduced by 54 days for good behavior, Farber said.

According to prison officials, the minimum security work camp is a satellite portion of the Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institute. Unlike a typical prison, the camp is not fenced and prisoners are housed in “military style” dormitories with communal bathrooms. During their incarceration the inmates do maintenance work on the facility such as cutting grass, working in the kitchen and operating a warehouse.

(U.S. v. Matthews; Media Counsel: Beth Farber, Baltimore) LR

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