Child pornography, by definition, is pornographic material involving under aged minors. In this digital age, almost all pornographic material is photographic, which means that real people were directly involved in its production. But not always, which is the case in this particular circumstance.
According to court records, the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office brought charges against two prisoners, Christopher Czarnik and Guy Lendrum, for the production of child pornography while in prison. In Michigan, this is formally called child sexually abusive material. (CSAM) Obviously, having no access to actual children or photographic equipment of any kind, the porn in question was created entirely by hand, in the form of words and pictures.
The Michigan Department of Corrections says that while both men are accused of producing child pornography while in prison, the cases are not identical and the time periods when the material was alleged to have been created was not the same.
Czarnik is said to have drawn pictures and written detailed stories about “young children engaging in explicit sexual acts,” says Muskegon County’s Chief Assistant Prosecutor Timothy M. Maat. The characters in Czarnik’s stories ranged in age from 5 to 9, and the stories and illustrations themselves were both “sexually graphic and sexually explicit situations,” according to Maat.
Lendrum however, created no pictures, but rather is alleged to have written sexually explicit stories involving children. According to media sources, Lendrum is facing a single count of Possession of child pornography, which is a four-year felony under Michigan law. He cannot, however, be charged with having manufactured or produced the child porn in question, because it cannot be proven whether or not they were written within the statute of limitations.
43-year-old Czarnik is currently serving a sentence in the Muskegon Correctional Facility for distribution and possession of child sexually abusive material, which is what Michigan law calls “kiddie porn.” He has been charged with a single count of “child abusive commercial activity,” also known as manufacturing child pornography, which is a 20-year felony. He is listed as being a habitual offender. The sentences of habitual offender can be “enhanced” or made much longer.
Lendrum is currently incarcerated in the West Shoreline Correctional Facility, where he is currently serving several prison sentences for 13 felony convictions. These convictions include multiple counts of both first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct with minors under the age of 13, along with counts of manufacturing child pornography, and using a computer to commit a crime.
Both cases are considered to be highly unusual, as in both cases the child pornography in question didn’t involve any children in its production. So does it still count as child pornography if no children are involved? Prosecutor Maat thinks so. He relies in part on convictions in other Michigan counties for child porn that was created using computer images of children but no real people.
“Our office’s position is this is not First Amendment protected speech because it involves obscene material, and that the Michigan (child pornography) statute prohibits the depiction or depictions of children engaged in listed sexual acts.” Maat told the court. “Obscenity has never been protected speech. I think there is public harm.”
It remains to be seen whether or not this case will even make it to trial or if the charges will be dismissed before that even becomes an option. We will be watching closely, as this is the kind of case that sets a precedent, and we will keep you updated as it develops.
We have an entire team of attorneys with extensive experience representing clients in kiddie porn cases in state and federal courts.