John Grisham, the man who has brought us such taut, twisted thrillers as The Firm and The Pelican Brief (not to mention the brilliant Skipping Christmas), has delivered unto us another shocker: He thinks a lot of people who view child porn are just doing it by accident and shouldn’t be prosecuted.

Grisham, who talked to The Telegraph about harsh prison sentences and judges run amok said that, sure, there are a lot of pedophiles out there and that they don’t deserve any sympathy, but that there are also just some confused guys his age who drink a little too much one evening and then click on some buttons and get arrested for nothing. It’s not like they touched a kid, you know? They just went to the wrong website.

From The Telegraph:

“We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who’ve never harmed anybody, would never touch a child,” he said in an exclusive interview to promote his latest novel Gray Mountain which is published next week.

“But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn.”

OK, except that’s not how it works. At all. Child porn isn’t usually hiding behind a Google search, lurking in the depths of the Os that seem to go on forever when you view the results for “child porn.” And they’re not linked to on legitimate pornographic sites that feature adult performers. In order to find what Grisham is talking about as “no big deal,” one would have to not only want to look for child pornography, but would have to know where to look. And despite Grisham’s protestations, wanting to look at images of children being raped and degraded isn’t an accident. Whether people who view child porn are pedophiles (and my bias is that they are because just the thought of watching something like that turns my stomach) is immaterial: The people who view it for curiosity or otherwise aren’t victims. Not only are they breaking the law, but they’re contributing to the creation and demand for more child pornography.

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Grisham went on to tell the cautionary tale of one of his law school friends who looked at some child porn and was brought to some straight-up injustice in Canada:

His drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled ‘sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that’. And it said ‘16-year-old girls’. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30.

“He shouldn’t ‘a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys. He didn’t touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years.

“He shouldn’t ‘a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn’t 10-year-old boys.”- Well, thank god for that. And those 16 year old girls looked 30 for god’s sake. How was he supposed to know they were actually 16? Just like that one teacher who raped a student was not guilty because she seemed older than her chronological age, right, John? Man, fucking judges are literally the worst. Allowing gay marriage, punishing people who view graphic images of kids being sexually assaulted. Just awful what this world is coming to.

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In reality, it seems less like Grisham’s friend is not guilty and more like Grisham has a problem reconciling the fact that someone he likes would be sexually attracted to children. I don’t know what it’s like in Canada, but in The US, the police aren’t going to show up at your door because you accidentally stumbled onto a shock site (this used to be something that trolls in 4Chan did) or checked out an image of your favorite Disney characters doing unspeakable things on Rule34. You have to either be actively looking and downloading child porn or be the victim of a hack like this one that happened in 2008. But those kind of hacks don’t come along very often. Certainly not every time someone within Grisham’s age group has a little too much to drink and wanders over to look at some vidjas on PornHub.

Of course, the issue of how lengthy a sentence for someone viewing versus someone producing child pornography is still controversial (The Telegraph notes that in some cases, individuas who looked at child pornography were given a longer sentence than those who had actually sexually assaulted a child), but both are crimes. And accidents happen very rarely.

Image via Getty