ALBANY, New York, May 16, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - State senators in New York quickly rubberstamped a bill to explicitly outlaw intentional viewing of child pornography on the Internet after an appeals court there dismissed charges against a former professor for viewing some images without downloading them.

Earlier in May, New York’s Court of Appeals dismissed two of 143 possession and promotion counts against James D. Kent, a former Marist College professor convicted in 2009 of possession of child pornography.

Court documents state that Kent’s work computer was found to contain deleted evidence of more than 30,000 images of young girls, including ones depicting children engaged in bestiality, as well as intercourse with adults and other children. Kent, formerly an Assistant Professor of Public Administration, initially denied knowledge of the images before arguing that he had reviewed the images as part of a research project on how child porn is regulated, according to the Washington Times.

Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick dismissed two of the counts because the images in question were apparently the result of Internet browsing, and were not downloaded to the computer. The ruling was based upon a technical reading of a provision in the law that it must be proved the accused had dominion or control over the images.

“Some affirmative action is required (printing, saving, downloading, etc.) to show that defendant in fact exercised dominion and control over the images that were on his screen,” wrote Ciparick. The images discovered on a 2007 virus scan of defendant James D. Kent’s computer was part of a web cache, and had not been purposely stored on the device, according to Reuters’ report. 

In a separate opinion, Associate Judge Victoria A. Graffeo, joined by Associate Judge Eugene F. Pigott, said she “do[es] not support this view” but concurred with the ruling as technically accurate.

Child advocates quickly piled on the ruling as setting a dangerous precedent: Patrick Trueman, president and chief executive of Morality in Media, called it “a singular outrage that the highest court in New York has decriminalized the act of viewing child pornography by computer.” Trueman, a former federal prosecutor, said all child pornography cases in New York should be handled by federal attorneys as a result of the decision.

Exactly one week after the ruling, the New York Senate on Tuesday passed a bill to close the legal loophole by explicitly outlawing willful access of child pornography with the intent to view. S. 7407, sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn), makes it a felony to “knowingly access with intent to view any obscene performance which includes sexual conduct by a child less than sixteen years of age.”

“It took about 16 minutes of shock, and then I recognized something had to be done,” said Senator Golden, a retired New York City police officer, on his reaction to the ruling, according to the Associated Press. “There are some things that really set off an alarm, and this definitely set off an alarm.”

The bill passed 21-3, with Sens. Thomas Duane, Velmanette Montgomery, and Bill Perkins voting nay.

Senator Golden said in a press release Tuesday that the bill brings New York closer to federal regulations on child pornography. Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos praised the bill, encouraging the effort “to keep [children] from being exploited in one of the worst ways.”

The bill has been sent to the Assembly, where New York state Assemblyman Joseph Lentol has already sponsored a similar measure. “We probably did the law at the dawn of the computer age and things have changed,” Lentol said. “We have to look at some of these laws with the updates in technology.”