Two inmates in Seagoville’s federal facility are accused of having drawings of girls engaging in sex acts. Such depictions were outlawed in 2003.
Two men already in the Seagoville federal prison for child pornography convictions have been slapped with new charges of possession of obscene material for having drawings and writings showing children being sexually abused.
Experts say that such offenders are using pencil and paper to fulfill their urges while behind bars, where the inmates pass the amateur comic books among themselves and sell them.
Seagoville inmates Danny Borgos, 27, and John R. Farrar, 56, are accused of having several drawings of girls depicted as being as young as 6.
A 2003 federal obscenity law makes it illegal to possess child pornography drawings, and a federal appeals court in 2008 upheld the nation’s first conviction under that law.
For a child pornography charge, the children have to be real. But drawings, paintings, writings, sculptures and other depictions of children being sexually abused fall under the obscenity law, known as the Protect Act, if they are shown to lack serious scientific, literary, artistic or political value.
But some question whether the law goes too far.
James Cantor, Ph.D, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto and an international expert on pedophilia, said child pornography laws are intended to protect actual people.
“When talking about a drawing, who’s the victim?” he asked. “We feel these are icky. But icky is not a real reason to pass a law.”
Borgos was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in Dallas last month for having the comic book. That was more time than he got for having actual child pornography.
He was serving a five-year sentence for a 2013 conviction out of New York for possessing and distributing child pornography. In that case, Borgos discussed online his “desire to rape prepubescent children and the excitement he derives from the children’s pain,” court records show.
That prior case boosted the statutory minimum sentence for the new conviction.
A prison guard was about to search a cell in October 2014 when he saw Borgos and another inmate sitting at a table in front of the cell, according to court records.
Borgos had a 37-page comic book that said “Kidskin COMIXXX” on the cover. The title was “Three Daughters Pt. 1.” The comic book featured drawings of three girls, ages 6, 9 and 11, who are engaged in sexually explicit conduct, with captions that tell a lurid story.
Borgos told prison authorities the book was his and that another inmate made the drawings for him and offered to draw more.
More recently, on May 5, Farrar was found at the Seagoville prison with at least six drawings, some titled “Family Night” and “Extra Credit,” which showed young girls being sexually abused, according to federal court records. He was indicted on Nov. 4.
Federal authorities also seized two books of writings about the sexual abuse of minors from Farrar. One of them was hidden inside the cover of a paperback book, court records show.
Farrar, a Massachusetts downtown revitalization consultant, was convicted in that state in 2007 of possessing and transporting child pornography and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In that case, Farrar told an undercover FBI agent online that “I love them all, infant to 13,” court records show.
It’s unclear whether similar comics, drawings and writings are being distributed among other inmates in the Seagoville prison. The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on the cases, “due to this matter currently being in litigation.”
Local attorneys say they can’t remember the last time someone in North Texas was prosecuted under the 2003 federal obscenity law for having child pornography drawings.
But Amy Phenix, Ph.D., a forensic psychologist in California who provides expert court opinions on sex offender evaluation, said such material is not unusual in a prison setting.
“They want something to arouse themselves,” Phenix said.
Lyn Williams, training director for the Austin-based Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, said such material would be a “valuable commodity in prison.” For some, it’s like getting a joint or heroin, he said.
“It’s reinforcing their behavior,” he said about the comics. “That’s not going to help when they get out.”
But Cantor said government shouldn’t pass a law based on an “emotional gut reaction.”
“Good public policy comes from minimizing and eliminating harm,” Cantor said.
The question of the legality of child sex comics has been settled in federal court, where First Amendment arguments have consistently failed.
In 2005, Dwight Whorley of Virginia became the first person convicted under the 2003 obscenity law. A federal appeals court upheld the conviction in 2008.
Whorley used a state computer to download Japanese anime cartoons showing young girls having sex with men. Whorley, who spent time in jail for previous child pornography charges, got 20 years in prison.
In another noted case, an Iowa comic book collector, Christopher Handley, was arrested after Japanese manga comic books showing children being sexually abused were mailed to him.
Handley was convicted in 2010 under the federal obscenity law after unsuccessfully challenging it during his trial. He did not have a criminal record and was given six months in prison. It was the first time someone was sent to prison for owning comic books, according to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
His attorney argued that there was no evidence the drawings represented any actual people and that they were “purely a product of the artist’s imagination,” court records show.
Handley’s attorney said that fictional characters in cartoons have no age. He said the indictment violated the First and Fifth Amendments.
But U.S. District Judge James E. Gritzner said in his ruling that Handley was confusing child pornography laws with obscenity laws. Child pornography offenses require the depiction of an actual minor while obscenity offenses do not, he said.
“Obscene materials are afforded no protection under the First Amendment,” Gritzner said in his ruling.