Sex offender Wesley Hawkins is now in the corner of the judge who once sentenced him to jail as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson undergoes her Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
In 2013, Hawkins pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, a felony. Jackson sentenced him to three months in jail, far below the sentencing guidelines of eight to 10 years and below the prosecution’s call for a two-year sentence.
The case has emerged as a major point of concern for Senate Republicans, who have noted that Jackson regularly offers lighter sentences to sex offenders than recommended in sentencing guidelines.
Hawkins has now said he has sympathy for Jackson as she is grilled about her logic in giving him such a light sentence, according to The Washington Post.
“I wasn’t very happy that she gave me three months, though, after reflection when I was in jail, I was hearing from other people who said it was their first time arrested and they got five years, six years,” he said.
“I feel that she chose to take into consideration the fact that I was just getting started [in life] and she knew this was going to hold me back for years to come regardless … so she didn’t really want to add on to that.”
In sentencing Hawkins, then 19, for possession of pornographic videos of boys as young as 8, 11 and 12 years old, Jackson said Hawkins was a low-risk sex offender.
“This seems to be a situation in which you were fascinated by sexual images involving what were essentially your peers,” she said. “And, as the psychological report concluded, there’s no reason to believe that you are a pedophile or that you pose any risk to children.”
But in 2019, Hawkins was ordered to enter a halfway house for the last six months of a six-year supervision sentence.
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“I think he got caught with child pornography again, and he wouldn’t have if he had been in prison the eight to 10 years the guidelines called for,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said.
According to The Post, a probation office petition stated that “despite being in treatment for more than five years,” Hawkins “continues to seek out sexually arousing, non-pornographic material and images of males 13 to 16-years-old.”
Hawkins said he did nothing wrong.
“As it clearly states in [my court file], it was not because I reoffended. It was not because I had done anything even illegal,” Hawkins said. “According to the treatment I was in, they felt I was at a high risk of reoffending.”
Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked Jackson to provide for them the 2019 petition used to put Hawkins in a halfway house.
“Your lenient sentencing in the Hawkins case was the subject of significant interest in the Committee’s review of your judicial record,” they wrote in a letter to Jackson.
“Please immediately provide the Committee with a copy of the probation petition that you referenced in that April 2019 order, and an explanation of what Hawkins did in 2019 that earned him twice as much time in [Bureau of Prisons] custody as your original three-month sentence.”
Jackson has pushed back against Republican interest in her light sentences for sex offenders.
When asked by GOP Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley whether she regrets giving Hawkins a three-month sentence, she said, “Senator, what I regret is that in a hearing about my qualifications to be a justice on the Supreme Court, we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on this small subset of my sentences and I’ve tried to explain.”