Favor will serve 5 ½ years for child pornography

by Erin Lee | 7/11/16 10:01am

UPDATED: July 13, 2016, at 6:10 p.m.

Former African and African American studies and English professor J. Martin Favor was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison on Monday. Favor pleaded guilty to a federal child pornography charge on March 31 and resigned earlier this month.

After Favor serves his sentence, he will be subject to seven years of supervised release, U.S. District Court of Concord case manager Jadean Barthelmes said. Favor will also have to complete a court-recommended sex offender treatment program and pay a $5,000 penalty assessment, Barthelmes said. His sentence is scheduled to start Aug. 5.

Favor could have received up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, as recommended by U.S. sentencing guidelines. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Abramson, who prosecuted the case, had recommended 6 ½ years of imprisonment with five years of supervised release. Favor’s lawyer George Ostler ’77, of DesMeules Olmstead & Ostler, had asked for three years in prison with five years of supervised release.

Ostler wrote in an email that he and his client have not decided whether to file an appeal, though the defendant is allowed 14 days after the sentencing to make a decision. He declined to comment further.

Abramson said in an interview that it is unusual for a defendant who has pled guilty to appeal the sentence, though it does happen infrequently.

Favor was arrested last fall on Sept. 4 for the alleged possession of child pornography. Five complaints filed by the police on the day of Favor’s arrest allege that Favor knowingly had in his possession videos depicting the graphic sexual abuse of several prepubescent boys and a prepubescent girl. At his arraignment last year, Favor pleaded not guilty.

In November, federal authorities took over the case, replacing the five state-level charges against Favor with one federal count of possessing child pornography. Favor pled guilty to the charge on March 31.

In his sentencing recommendation, Abramson wrote that Favor, “by his own admission, had been collecting child pornography for 15 years, at least in part to satisfy the unnatural ‘urges’ upon which he swears he has not tangibly acted.”

Favor was “ultimately undone” by his decision to upload four suspected images of child pornography to the social media platform Tumblr through his account handle “LustyJourney,” Abramson wrote. The images were traced to the defendant and a federal search warrant was executed at his home, where authorities obtained more than 500 videos and 300 images depicting children being sexually abused, according to the sentencing document.

Computer science professor Hany Farid helped refine the PhotoDNA technology that flagged Favor’s uploads and linked his Favor’s IP address with the images of child pornography on Tumblr. PhotoDNA determines the “hash” value of an image in question and matches it to a database of files previously marked as child pornography.

Until Favor resigned earlier this month, he had been on paid leave from the College since September, even after he pled guilty in March. Favor had been a professor at the College for 22 years and formerly chaired the African and African American studies program.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence declined to comment.

Abramson said that though Favor’s former status as a professor at the College could attract more attention for the case, it did not specifically affect how the U.S. Attorney’s office approached the case. He noted, however, that they consider a defendant’s background and potential mitigating circumstances, which could include personal trauma and childhood experiences.

“When we consider what sentence to recommend, we take a holistic view and look not just at the criminal conduct, but all the characteristics of a person,” he said.

David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s crimes against children research center, said he thought Favor’s sentence was typical for federal prosecutions for child pornography possession. He added that federal jurisdiction penalties tend to be higher than those of state jurisdictions.

Finkelhor said the number of child pornography cases have increased dramatically over the past 10 to 15 years, partly due to the advent of the internet and digital photography. Law enforcement has also become “very mobilized” about investigating and prosecuting crimes against children, he said.

Abramson said his office prosecutes 15 to 20 child pornography cases per year on average. Sentences vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the size and nature of an individual’s collection and whether the person distributed content, he said.

“Our goal is ultimately to achieve a just sentence,” he said.

A second restitution sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13.