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Rinehart got into legal trouble because one of the girls mentioned to him that she had posed for sexually provocative photos for a previous boyfriend and offered to do the same for Rinehart.
Rinehart lent her his camera, which she returned with the promised photos.
But the women Rinehart photographed were not children. Furthermore, Rinehart not only was not a producer of actual child pornography; he was not even a consumer.
His decision to photograph and upload to his computer photos and video of the two women had no effect whatsoever on the interstate market for child pornography.
The 1984 federal law that Rinehart was charged with breaking, which raised the federal age of consent for explicit images from 16 to 18, was passed under the authority of the Commerce Clause.
According to the prevailing interpretation of the clause, the federal government has a legitimate interest in regulating the interstate sale and distribution of child pornography (by prohibiting it) to prevent the exploitation of children.
In 2007 Rinehart was convicted on two federal charges of producing child pornography. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentences, Hamilton wrote, his hands were tied. So barring an unlikely grant of clemency from the president, Rinehart, who is serving his time at a medium-security prison in Pennsylvania, will have to complete at least 85 percent of his term (assuming time off for good behavior), or nearly 13 years.Nor did it matter that the photos for which he was convicted never went beyond his computer.Rinehart had no prior criminal history, and there was no evidence he had ever possessed or searched for child pornography on his computer.He points out that under federal law Rinehart received the same sentence someone convicted of hijacking an airplane or second-degree murder would receive.For a bank robber to get Rinehart's sentence, Hamilton writes, "he would need to fire a gun, inflict serious bodily injury on a victim, physically restrain another victim, and get away with the stunning total of .5 million." (You might also compare Rinehart's punishment to the treatment given former Elkhart, Indiana, police officer William Lee.
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Under federal law, he could have faced up to 25 years in prison.