PITTSBURGH — A western Pennsylvania man who successfully appealed his conviction and 17½-year prison sentence by arguing a judge prejudiced a jury by showing them too many clips of the violent child pornography he collected has been resentenced — to an even longer prison term.
U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon on Wednesday sentenced David Cunningham, 39, of Eighty-Four, to 20 years in prison, followed by 20 years of probation.
Cunningham was first convicted and sentenced in 2010. A federal appeals court overturned that decision after Cunningham's attorney argued there was no reason to show the clips from videos found on Cunningham's computer because he acknowledged they contained child pornography.
The appeals court found U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab, the judge at Cunningham's 2010 trial, erred by not previewing the clips and by showing seven clips of two videos, when one of each would have sufficed. Schwab agreed with prosecutors that jurors needed to see the violent nature of the pornography in order to fairly decide the case.
Bissoon said the severe sentence was warranted because the children involved were victimized by the acts recorded, and continue to be violated by the videos' distribution on the Internet. She also found "disturbing the lack of remorse or any responsibility" by Cunningham for his crimes.
Defense attorney Melvin Vatz argued that Bissoon should not impose a longer sentence than Schwab's, arguing that could be construed as "vindictive" and because none of the underlying facts have changed since Cunningham's 2010 conviction. Cunningham was convicted again in August.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Soo Song noted that Cunningham has a 2005 conviction for exposing himself to a child, a charge that was reduced from a felony molestation count because the 4-year-old victim's mother didn't want the child to have to testify in court.
Song said Cunningham's crimes show he has "disrespect" for prior punishment, and that he can't be trusted to control his sexual impulses around children.
Song also argued the videos, some of which showed children bound, gagged and tormented, warranted a stiff sentence.
"This is a case that has a persistent and torturous impact" on the victims, Song said.
Cunningham did himself no favors when the judge allowed him to address the court about his charges. Besides denying the accusations, he spent most of his 25-minute statement complaining how various ailments — ranging from a MRSA infection to Hepatitis C — weren't properly treated in the various jails and prisons where he's been housed. Cunningham accused prison guards and doctors of trying to exacerbate his illnesses because of the nature of his crimes.
"They don't want us comfortable," he said. "It's punishment. It's extreme punishment. That's what it is."