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There oughtta be a law--isn't there already?

So, a librarian saw a man looking at child pornography on the library's computers. Her supervisor ordered her not to tell the police about it. She defied the order, told the police, and the man has been arrested. Let's hope he gets convicted and put away for a long time. Needless to say, more of the same was found at his home.

So the librarian got fired by the supervisor, who also got pretty pushy with the police, telling them in a phone call to call off their investigation, because the police have "no business interfering" with library matters. Betcha didn't know the public library is a law-free zone. Back off, cops. They can do anything they like in there.

All you legal eagles out there in readerland: Is there no crime called "obstruction of justice"? How about "witness intimidation"? Or is the latter a species of the former? Since possession of child pornography is (I am informed) a federal crime, wouldn't these be federal laws against obstruction of justice? What about California laws? And last: Doesn't ordering a subordinate, under implicit threat of job loss, not to call the police about a crime count as obstruction of justice, blocking the course of an investigation, or something of the sort?

I'm all in favor of prosecuting the supervisor. It sounds like a showdown with the librarians' pro-filth ideological association is very much overdue.

HT Cordelia's Shoes

Comments (15)

Wow. I'm speechless. I probably ought not be, since I am still appalled by that Supreme Court ruling, handed down several years ago, discriminating between child pornography and virtual child pornography, and extending the imprimatur of the law to the latter. But I am.

I'm afraid librarians have been becoming more and more aggressively ideological for some years. It appears to be taught to them as part of their training. "Free speech" means anything, literally, anything, goes, and libraries are supposed to be in the avant garde of making sure that people have access to anything in the name of freedom of speech and "research." If you thought library science was a nice, safe, normal and professional field for your child to enter, think again. The whole idea of "banned book week," celebrated for twenty years now or so in libraries across the country, was an early-appearing sign of the trend.

All you legal eagles out there in readerland: Is there no crime called "obstruction of justice"? How about "witness intimidation"?

Very much obstruction of justice, but witness intimidation usually only applies to witnesses in court (again, of course, not a lawyer). (You could probably throw in coercion, too.)

I think there might well be a case, now that those images are likely cached on that library system (or were at one point), that possession of child pornography with intent to distribute should face the library as well.

The thing is, by simply witnessing that man in that situation, she was legally obligated to report the crime. Report it? Get fired. Don't report it? Go to jail.

I'm all in favor of prosecuting the supervisor.


And everyone else in the chain of command that allowed that dismissal to take place should bear some responsibility. This type of situation makes me glad we haven't seen much in the way of tort reform just yet. For all of the frivolous lawsuits that play out in this country, I hope this jobless librarian takes them to the cleaners, regardless of any legal troubles that library's staff should face.

The article implies that the fired woman doesn't have much chance of a case against the library for the firing, because there's some sort of "fire-at-will" situation for a person in the early period of employment, which she was still in. The supervisor can just claim that she wasn't doing her job well enough or whatever and thereby discharge the very weak burden of proof. I dunno. This is egregious enough that I'm not sure they can get away with that.

I think her case for a suit over the firing would be strengthened if the federal or state prosecutor opened a case against the supervisor, though. That phone call to the police would be pretty strong evidence corroborating the fired woman's claims. Some sort of loud and clear message should be sent to that library and other libraries: "Do not try to block prosecution of your patrons for horrible, blatantly illegal activities at your library."

As a semi-retired old coot I until recently had a part time job in one of my county's best libraries, best as judged by size as well as catalog.

This library had, as I hoped all would have, a policy against viewing porn on their computers. How it was enforced is another question. One particular person in his late teens was asked to leave the premises on about ten different occasions, and on six of them documentation was written for the library's security file, based in part on his use of shouted obscenities and even threats.

I no longer work at the library but remain an avid patron. So does the young man but with different aims.

It should be mentioned that one of the risks of such activities is the incidental viewing of this form of entertainment by passersby, I have parents and children in mind.

Much depends on the administration, the directorship, of the individual library.
Nonetheless one should not expect an awareness and appreciation for classical learning or even learning humanely understood. In general there is a leaning with the winds of the age, a keen eye on customer satisfaction and it's concomitant,the budget. And some no mean number regard themselves as a progressive vanguard suitably, if mistakenly, enlightened and guardians of our civil liberties.

The last thing they want is a policeman on the premises, short of offenses usually found in back alleys.

Do they get a better budget if they have higher customer satisfaction?

I bet they could get a lot of customers to express their opposition to this stuff.

Not a lawyer and offering a conflicting opinion. Probably no law violated. As they - they, the most authoritative source ;-) - say, there's no law against being a jerk or a pain in the butt. There is no mandatory reporting requirement, so the librarian wasn't being asked to contravene the law. She may have a case for wrongful dismisal though. I would imagine even at will employment states would have a few protections for reporting illegal conduct.

Right, I'm definitely not claiming someone here had mandatory reporter status, because they probably wouldn't be in such a list. But if there's some category of crime that covers attempting to block the course of a criminal investigation or obstructing the course of justice, I was thinking that hopefully an employer's trying to twist someone's arm _not_ to report a crime would count. Would it not count if the employer or supervisor had committed the crime? But in this case the supervisor was trying to assist the person who had done so to get away with it.

But this is all just conjectural, and there may be no crime by the supervisor. I wish there were. Hopefully at least she can get something for wrongful dismissal, though.

It may be that the employee may be able to rely on state whistleblowing and retaliation laws in California. See here: http://www.job-law.com/7300.shtml

Right, I'm definitely not claiming someone here had mandatory reporter status, because they probably wouldn't be in such a list.

Serves me right for not actually reading the California mandatory reporters before I opened my big mouth!

I'm confused about what the law is. I read somewhere (sorry, can't remember where) that viewing child porn is not illegal, but that downloading it (because it's now in your possession) and distributing it is. Manufacturing it is as well, except - as Jeff mentioned - in the case of the virtual stuff. Does the distinction between viewing and downloading vary from state to state? I just don't know. I'm interested in precisely what that man in the library was charged with. The only clue I get from the article is this line: "All pornography is immoral, but possession of child pornography is a federal crime."

I haven't looked up the mandatory reporter laws either but am guessing librarian isn't included.

I don't know what part of the charge against the guy will depend on what was found at his trailer and what part of it will depend on what he did at the library. The article mentioned "obscenity" laws, which may be easier to violate than pornography laws. I'm assuming these are California laws.

Producing the virtual stuff _isn't_ illegal federally if the prosecutors can't prove that real children were used. That was what Jeff was referring to.

The whistle-blower law idea is an excellent one, Frank. She should look into it.

What I'm particularly concerned with is this idea that libraries think people have a _right_ to do this on library premises and that it's their job to "protect" them. Gack!

I checked out some of the local reporting on this incident and here is some background that does not explain the insanity of the firing and the call to the police, but gives us a bit more procedural detail:

1 - It is county policy for any county employee witnessing a crime in a govt. building to report it. They are investigating why that message was lost with this library.

2 - It is this library's policy to warn patrons who are looking at "run of the mill" pornography first and then to ban them from the library after the next infraction.

3 - This library had "porn" filters that this man bypassed by accessing the child porn through an e-mail account. He was downloading it onto a disk because he had a computer at home, but no internet access.

4 - The woman who reported the crime clearly saw child pornography and told her superior who allegedly suggested that she follow the "normal" pornography protocol.

5 - The woman reported the crime anonymously and was subsequently fired before her 6 month probationary period ended. They can fire her without cause during that period so no justification was given.

Of course none of this explains the firing, the insane call to the police, and the ever growing misconception that librarians hold about being the front line soldiers for a radical interpretation of the first amendment. You are right Lydia. A heart to heart with our librarians is long over due.

Downloading it onto a disk. Bingo and gotcha. That's possession, not just viewing, if there is a difference in law.

Retaliation (like race, national origin, religion and gender) are one of the few exceptions to at will employment recognized by most states. Of course, that is a civil claim, not a criminal violation. California, as loopy as it is, I would suspect follows it. If she is a public employee, there may also be other protections afforded (as well as her probatonary status may have some impact).

She may have serious issues with a claim, but I've seen much more frivolous cases pursued.

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