Author John Grisham: Child Porn Sentences Are Sometimes Too Harsh

by Antoinette Bueno 8:06 AM PDT, October 16, 2014
Photo: Getty Images

John Grisham, the bestselling author of such legal thrillers as The Firm, The Rainmaker and A Time to Kill, is currently in some serious hot water for his controversial comments that not all men who watch child porn are pedophiles.

In a new interview with The Telegraph, the 59-year-old author argued that America's judges have "gone crazy" over the past 30 years, and are locking up too many people in prison. He went on to give a personal example of a friend, and what he felt was too harsh a sentence.

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"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," he said. "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."

"A friend of mine, 10 years ago, his drinking was out of control, and he went to a website," he said, getting specific. "It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers’ or something like that. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff -- it was 16 year old girls who looked 30."

"He shouldn't have done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys," he explained. "And he didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: 'FBI!' and it was a sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people -- sex offenders -- and he went to prison for three years."

"They haven't hurt anybody. They deserve some type of punishment or whatever, but 10 years in prison?" he asked. "There's so many of them now. There's so many 'sex offenders' -- that's what they're called -- that they put them in the same prison. Like they're a bunch of perverts, or something; thousands of them. We've gone nuts with this incarceration."

Though he did say that he has "no sympathy for real pedophiles."

"I have no sympathy for real pedophiles,” he stressed. "God, please lock those people up. But so many of these guys do not deserve harsh prison sentences, and that's what they're getting."

Grisham, a lawyer who actually practiced criminal law for about a decade, talked to The Telegraph to promote his latest novel Gray Mountain, out next week. In the candid interview, he also revealed that sentencing disparities between black people and white people was likely to be the subject of his next book.

UPDATE: Grisham has since released a statement through his website apologizing for his comments.

"Anyone who harms a child for profit or pleasure, or who in any way participates in child pornography -- online or otherwise --should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

My comments made two days ago during an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph were in no way intended to show sympathy for those convicted of sex crimes, especially the sexual molestation of children. I can think of nothing more despicable.

I regret having made these comments, and apologize to all."

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