Grace: Judges Too Lenient on Child Predators

ByABC News via logo

May 3, 2006 — -- There are more than 3 million images of child pornography online, according to the 2006 Congressional Record.

That statistic is one reason why Congress is determined to crack down on child predators.

Last month, Justin Berry, 19, who was lured into the dark world of online child porn, testified on Capitol Hill.

"A few weeks after setting up my webcam, one of these men approached me online with a proposal," he said last month. "He would pay me $50 if I took off my shirt for a few minutes while sitting in front of my webcam."

Today's testimony will feature 13-year-old Masha Allen. Her adoptive father posted explicit photos of her as a little girl for five years. One of the now infamous pictures was actually taken at the Disney World Resort. It sparked an intense hunt for Masha and her abuser.

"He just said he wanted my pictures," Masha said. "He just said that I was pretty and stuff like that. So he'd just take them."

CNN Headline News and Court TV journalist Nancy Grace will also testify before Congress. As a former prosecutor in Atlanta, she worked on many child sex abuse cases and said putting the perpetrators in jail was like "putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that needed surgery."

It is a cause she has embraced as a journalist.

"We need to crack down on these perverts that are targeting our children online and who are peddling their images," Grace said on "Good Morning America." "Judges have to stop being lenient and start handing down hard sentences. We need more stings, more law enforcement officers on the job rounding up the pedophiles. There's just not enough being done."

It's a problem that has been weighing heavily on the minds of some lawmakers.

"I can't express the angst I have about, A, trying to find the depths of the problem; B, see what federal solutions we need to enact," said Rep Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Big Business

According to the 2006 Congressional Record, cyberspace child pornography is a $20-billion-a-year business, and authorities say the danger is growing. One in five children is now approached by online predators.

"Talk to your children and teens about how easy it is and how many bad people are out there," Barton said.

Masha agrees and says that victims must speak out against Internet pedophiles to stop them from destroying more young lives.

"She's given a voice to all these poor children that have been abused by sickos," Grace said. "She highlights the need for legislation that will crack down on child pornography online. She shows us that we need maximum mandatory sentences for child pornographers and online predators. She explains why we need more money to fight these diseased people who peddle child pornography and who use the Internet to victimize our children."

Grace has gotten to know Masha, who was born in Russia, well and said that she was trying to lead a normal life and overcome the scars left by the molestation.

"She still has nightmares and bites her fingernails down to the thumb and worries all the time," Grace said. "She has all the classic symptoms of molestation."

Grace said that parents had to assume more responsibility and keep track of their children's online activities by using surveillance devices. Grace said computer companies should be pressured to install mandatory safety measures and warnings on the computers.

She would like parents to be able to get a printout of where their children have been online.

"Trust your kid, but not the Internet predator," she said.

"The Internet has opened a window for child predators into the bedrooms of every child in the country," Grace said. "And we have to protect our kids."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events