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Cory Silverberg

Man* Gets Pass on Child Porn

By December 6, 2008

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*well, a quadriplegic man

This may be the scariest lawyer story I've heard all year. From the Buffalo News:

When federal agents and prosecutors first learned about Wayne Schifelbine and his child pornography crimes, their inclination was to put him in prison for a long time.

But then agents discovered something else about the 43-year-old Allegany County man who was using a credit card to buy images from child porn Web sites:

Schifelbine is a quadriplegic.

Terrance Flynn, the U.S. Attorney assigned to the case, moved swiftly into action, proving that, though it might be ignorant, justice is not in fact blind.

Because this particular child porn consumer uses a wheelchair to get around, Flynn gave him a deal with no criminal conviction or prison time. He explained his reasoning this way:

"Child pornography is a very serious crime that hurts children. But in this case, we came to the conclusion that no punishment in federal prison could compare to the punishment that has already been inflicted on this man," Flynn said. "You could say that he's already in prison for life."

Well you could say that. But you'd be wrong. And an idiot. I know it may be difficult, but put aside everything you've 'learned' from Jerry Lewis over the years (and while I'm on the subject, what other group of people would we presume to know everything about based on a comedian holding a telethon?). Lets be clear, using a wheelchair is not the same as being in prison. Wheelchairs offer people with mobility disabilities freedom. Prison offers people--with and without disabilities--well, the exact opposite. People who use wheelchairs don't feel "bound" to their wheelchairs anymore than you feel "bound" to your feet, it's how you get around.

More important to this case, the idea that your body is a prison is not an accurate metaphor, it's hyperbole. There's a difference between something "feeling" like a prison, calling something a prison for dramatic effect, and actually living in a prison. Just ask someone who lives in prison.

That a U.S. Attorney can't distinguish metaphor from reality is frightening enough. But wait, there's more.

Apparently the secondary reasoning for giving this guy a pass is that, according to his lawyer, he's "physically incapable of molesting children."

Much was made in the article about Schifelbine's limited mobility, and his lawyer even made a video for the court to show his client in action.

But do we prosecute viewers of child porn only because we think they’ll walk up to children and touch them with their hands? For a number of good reasons, the answer is no: There isn't a proven causal relationship between watching porn and physically molesting children; watching and buying child pornography is in and of itself an exploitation of children; and if this guy is capable of thinking, moving and acting in the world, why on earth would he not be capable of being a sex offender? What kind of ideas about "offending" do these people have? That its some kind of activity reserved only for those in peak physically shape? Maybe they'd like to add the Body Mass Index to the set of tools they use to investigate such things.

In the end this article and this case highlight everything that is wrong with how non-disabled people understand sexuality and disability and gender.

If in this sex panicked culture we treat our sex offenders worse than we treat our mass murderers, and if child porn producers and users are at the bottom of that seedy hierarchy, then what does it mean to excuse someone from this activity because he has a disability? It's the ultimate statement of paternalistic pity, and its totally pathetic. He shouldn’t be feared because he’s harmless, he’s not a real man (because “real men” should be feared) he’s a “disabled man”, a “quadriplegic man”. We make excuses of all kinds to explain a difference that just isn’t there. But it’s a difference we rely on to make ourselves feel better. Sadly both the case itself and the reporting miss every point worth making.

Oh and in case you're wondering where those groups that paint themselves as child advocates, always at the ready to argue for stiffer sentences were. According to the article, a Buffalo representative from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was quoted as saying they understood the decision not to prosecute, because "clearly, there are extenuating circumstances."

Read more- Buffalo News: Quadriplegic spared prison in child porn case

Comments
December 6, 2008 at 5:19 pm
(1) nico says:

A perfect reason why Pity is never a good thing. It leads to this bullshit. And yes, for those who are wondering, I am disabled. But that shouldn’t matter. This non-sentence sucks. It shows, moreover, how little US society has advanced in regards to disability, similar to how it’s been slow to advance in other things. Europe and much of the rest of the world is way ahead of this country.

December 8, 2008 at 10:48 pm
(2) Melanie Maddison says:

This type of this just angers me!

December 9, 2008 at 8:06 am
(3) Sigrid says:

Other question: How would this guy gratify himself? Isn’t this the purpose of all porn to arouse the onlooker who will then, ahm, finish manually?

Plus: Maybe HE couldn’t touch children. But many pedophiles make children touch THEM. So there goes one of the points of the defence.

December 9, 2008 at 8:14 am
(4) Sigrid says:

Plus:

Crazy.

December 9, 2008 at 10:05 am
(5) Kenya says:

Even if he is “incapable” of physically molesting children, he still contributed by giving money to people who did, thereby fuelling that disgusting industry.

So I guess if I have no hands, but I pay to watch someone to shoot someone else, I wouldn’t be prosecuted either, oh, wait, I think I would.

December 10, 2008 at 8:33 am
(6) withheld says:

I work at a nursing skilled care facility. We have had many incidents where a client was a previous sex predator (usually not prosecuted, we usually knew this only from statements and concerns by the client’s family). Although the clients in these cases were so infirm he couldn’t take care of their basic “activities of daily living” (eating, dressing, transfering to the toilet, etc.) and usually was in a wheelchair, they would find some way to manuever to be alone with children. It is a twisted behavior that doesn’t end when the person is so infirm and disabled they are in a wheelchair. In fact, by that point many of the inhibitions they had to acting out are reduced due to medication, etc. And, of course, to disbelieving caregivers who haven’t had the nasty experience of seeing these men continue to try to victimize children. Our staff actually wrote a paper on the topic when they discovered there was none. Most private nursing homes wouldn’t want this discussed and would quietly discharge the offender.

December 10, 2008 at 9:18 am
(7) Bob says:

I’m not in a wheelchair, nor am I a child pervert, but I thought these heavy pervert penalties were enacted to protect our children. It appears many would have the same penalties apply to anyone who had disgusting thoughts.
Are we trying to control harm to children or become thought police?

December 10, 2008 at 10:01 am
(8) Ducky says:

Bravo to you Cory for bringing more light to this story and these issues.

@Comment by Bob: This is not about policing thoughts. This guy has financed child pornography. That alone is a physical act against children.

December 10, 2008 at 10:01 am
(9) wjs says:

This man is no better than anyone else, he should be punished just any one else is.

December 10, 2008 at 10:38 am
(10) Silvetta Ann says:

Kenya peg’d it.
SO WHAT if this bum is crippled physically!
He’s physical ability to click the -PAY NOW- button on his computer greases the wheel that keeps children naked and sexually ruined for life. He DOES this.

It’s hard to imagine a group of people, we consider educated watchdogs letting this happen to any child.

They should be given just ONE abused child’s picture, life story, interviews, any and everything about them ..to make it personal. Make it clear that it could be one of their family’s children, even their own child.
Suddenly poor pitiful crippled Joe Public looks and IS the abuser.

IF this sick stick has money, he can pay another sick bum to BRING a child to him. He could make this child do whatever he wants, it only takes money and a clever mind to orchestrate it. He must be clever to have convinced all these people how handicapped his life could be.

It’s ANOTHER slap your palm to your forehead and yell … WHAT WERE THEY THINKING??

IF we would beat the crap out of these people and THEN kill them in a public square, I doubt others would act upon their darker sexual thoughts. Surely a large percentage would deter themselves from acting upon their perverse natures.

December 10, 2008 at 12:00 pm
(11) ANCSteve says:

It’s not about the crime. He was not prosecuted because the “system” would have to bear the heavy cost of additional care his incarceration would require. That’s the unspoken underlying cause, IMHO.

December 10, 2008 at 12:23 pm
(12) Lise Fuller says:

I couldn’t agree with you more. I write sex myself. Fiction, but sex none the less. This guy is paying for this stuff which is the driver of why people exploit children. It’s sick and the man should have had some punishment for it!

December 10, 2008 at 3:14 pm
(13) Laura says:

Wow. Now I’ve heard everything. The whole point of prosecuting those that consume child pornography is, as Cory mentioned, the fact that child pornography has ALREADY harmed a child by the sheer fact of its existence. Whomever pays to download those kinds of photos or videos is directly funding the molestation of children, as real, live kids were used sexually in order to create those images. What those photos SHOULD be called is the documentation of previous crimes, and those that view them for sexual thrills should be considered the source of funding. Cut off the funding and you cut off the supply. While the link between porn consumer and actual pedophile may be tenuous or questionable, the fact that children have already been harmed by the production of child pornography is not. I find it reprehensible that this man got away with criminal behaviour, based on his disability, as it certainly does NOT create a special circumstance. Right and wrong will always be right and wrong, regardless of one’s physical or mental disabilities.

December 11, 2008 at 3:53 am
(14) dolores Dempsey says:

Bravo Corry:

You perfectly articulated about this travesty of justice, and pointed out the lack of understanding of just what child porn is,even at the level of U.S. Attory Flynn. I hope you don’t mind, but I forwarded your comments to the Bflo News reporter.
Ignorance = lack of knowledge. Let’s hope some people, including this attorney, gain some knowledge (= clarity) so that those who don’t get it, gain some understanding. Also, I have a friend nurse in a convalescent facility and I can second that comment about nursing homes quietly transferring ‘sex problem’ men quietly out of their facility. Also, since this man can easily afford $50,000 forfeiture, what’s the message? Also, if he cannot be alone, and has someone with him 24 hrs. a day, what the heck was the aide or nurse doing?????

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