Ketanji Brown Jackson Disagreed with Expert Witness’s Definition of Pedophilia

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Andrew Harnik / AP

Ketanji Brown Jackson disagreed with her expert witness’s definition of pedophilia during a hearing while serving as Vice-Chair of the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

At a February 2012 sentencing commission hearing, Jackson debated the definition of pedophilia with expert witnesses Gerald Grant, a digital forensics investigator; James Fottrell, a U.S. Department of Justice criminal child exploitation expert; and Dr. Gene Abel, founder of a medical group that works to identify pedophiles.

During a 2012 sentencing hearing, Jackson said:

I’m wondering whether you could say that there is a — that there could be a less-serious child pornography offender who is engaging in the type of conduct in the group experience level because their motivation is the challenge, or to use the technology? They’re very sophisticated technologically, but they aren’t necessarily that interested in the child pornography piece of it?

Fottrell told Jackson it is “difficult” to say those kinds of offenders are “not dangerous.”

Jackson then went on to talk about how she “mistakingly assumed that child pornography offenders are pedophiles.”

“So I’m trying to understand this category of non-pedophiles who obtain child pornography. And are those the people who you are saying are the nonsexually motivated offenders?” Jackson asked.

Dr. Abel told Jackson, “I think you ought to keep your previous definition, quite frankly.”

Abel said:

There are individuals who collect. And sometimes they’ll collect ten gigs of images, and they won’t look at them. They are collectors. But that’s kind of rare. There are people who collect just for collecting purposes, you know, but the majority of these individuals are collecting over time. If they’re collecting over time, then they have interest over time. If it’s greater than six months, they meet the definition of pedophilia. So that’s why I say in general I would keep your old definition as being accurate. But I would agree that there are other reasons that people get involved in looking at child pornography, but I’ll put my nickel on pedophilia.

Jackson’s lenient sentences for child sex offenders were thrown into the forefront of her confirmation hearings after Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley (R) exposed her record in an 18-tweet thread the week before her hearings.


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