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Congress Votes Stiffer Penalties for Convicted Child Pornographers

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The U.S. Congress last week approved legislation that would increase the penalties for convicted child pornographers. The bill, which had been approved in the Senate, passed in the House last week by a voice vote and was sent to the White House for the President's signature.

The measure, if signed by the President, would raise the maximum fine for a first offense from $10,000 to $100,000 and for subsequent convictions from $15,000 to $200,000, according to a spokesman in the House.

The bill, which was introduced by Representative Harold S. Sawyer, Republican of Michigan, would also remove a current provision that requires prosecutors to prove that ma-terials involving child pornography are obscene before obtaining convictions.

And in developments involving child-abuse cases:

Two of the defendants in the Virginia McMartin Preschool sexual-abuse case--the California case in which the owner and some employees have been charged with molesting pupils in a child-pornography operation--are scheduled for pretrial hearings late this week.

In Reno, the owner, a current employee, and a former employee of a Montessori school were indicted last week by the Washoe County Grand Jury on 27 counts of sexually assaulting 4- and 5-year-old boys and girls at the school.

Ruben G. Babayan, the owner, Manouchehr Rashidi, an employee, and Greg Sarkissian, a former employee, are free on $100,000 bonds, according to Reno District Attorney Mills Lane. A trial date has not yet been set.

All three men were arrested following a six-week investigation in which approximately 60 students and former students and their parents were interviewed by officials in the district attorney's office. The school was closed early this month by authorities, a move that has been opposed by parents who would like the facility reopened now that the accused individuals no longer work with the children.

Elementary-School Owner

In Northridge, Calif., Campbell Greenup, the owner of a private elementary facility called Dr. Green-up's School, has been charged on 14 counts of lewd conduct involving seven victims.

Mr. Greenup was initially charged on seven counts in late April, according to Ken Freeman, deputy district attorney in Los Angeles. "As a result of the publicity, a number of other victims that had been involved or molested [since] 1979 came forward," Mr. Freeman said. "And the investigation is still open."

Mr. Greenup's elementary school, which has been in operation since 1978 and is still open, enrolled 25 to 30 children, about half of whom have dropped out since the owner was charged. Mr. Greenup is being held in lieu of $250,000 bail, according to Mr. Freeman.

On Monday, the district attorney's office will make a motion to have the child witnesses testify in the trial via two-way, closed-circuit television "to spare the children the trauma of having to tell these details in public," Mr. Freeman said. Mr. Greenup's preliminary hearing is scheduled for May 21.

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