By Adam Rubenfire, Managing News Editor
Published March 21, 2013
DETROIT — Stephen Jenson, a former medical resident at the University of Michigan Health System, was sentenced Thursday to 36 months in federal prison for the possession of child pornography.
The sentencing is the minimum mandatory sentence for possessing child pornography. Jenson’s attorney, Raymond Cassar, argued that the nature of his client’s crime did not require additional penalty.
Jenson was arrested by University Police in December 2011 after it was discovered that he had viewed child pornography in a University Hospital lounge. A fellow resident found his flash drive with obscene images on it and later reported the discovery to the attending physician.
An attorney in the UMHS initially told the resident that her concerns about the flash drive were ‘unfounded,' and neglected to report the incident to University Police. It wasn’t until six months later that the incident was re-reported by the attending physician and University Police were notified. University President Mary Sue Coleman called the delay a “serious failure on the part of the institution.” Communication problems between University Police and Hospital Security discovered during an internal review of the case prompted a reorganization of campus security agencies, which included the creation of the Division of Public Safety and Security, which puts all agencies under an umbrella division headed by UMPD chief Joe Piersante, DPSS's interim executive director.
Initial state charges were dropped after the U.S. Secret Service arrested Jenson on the federal charges. Jenson was found to be in possession of 97 images and four videos, some of which he had viewed using hospital computers.
Matthew Roth, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, argued in a previous memo that Jenson should be sentenced to 48 months in prison because the crime was committed on a computer and the number of images he possessed, among other factors.
U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said though Jenson’s crime did meet such factors for increasing the sentence, the guidelines are irrelevant to the case. Cohn pointed out that computers are universally used to view child pornography and the amount of images that Jenson possessed was not large compared to other cases.
Prosecutors have drawn attention to the fact that Jenson was undergoing pediatric training at UMHS, noting that he would eventually be able to treat children. However, Cassar said he intended to be an oncologist, not specializing in pediatrics, and claimed that his training was unfairly held against him.
Cassar painted the picture of a man who had a love for medicine and a passion for cancer research but would now likely not be able to become a physician.
“He led an extraordinary life,” Cassar told the court. “He spent the last seven years (in medicine). He’s lost them. He’s done.”
Cassar asked the judge to acknowledge that Jenson does not present a risk to public safety, noting that not doing so would prevent him from accessing programs like therapy in prison.
Cassar said the University community “abandoned” Jenson after his crime was discovered, and therefore asked that Cohn allow him to serve his sentence in a prison near his hometown in Utah.
Cohn confirmed that Jenson is not a risk to public safety and agreed to place him in a correctional facility near his hometown. The judge ordered that Jenson surrender himself to the court within 90 days of the sentencing.
In a brief address to the court, Jenson said he was aware of the consequences of possessing child pornography.
“I knew what I did was wrong,” Jenson said. “When I was looking at the images, I knew it was wrong.”
Jenson told the court that he would attempt to rehabilitate himself, both in prison and in therapy.
“I am trying to do what I need to do to make myself a better man,” he said.
In an interview with The Michigan Daily after he was sentenced, Jenson said he looks forward to completing his sentence so that he can work on a career in medicine.
“My only is hope that after this chapter of my life with prison is done, I will be able to be helping people and practicing medicine,” Jenson said.
Before attending medical school, Jenson was a cancer researcher. He said he would go back to research if he is unable to get a job practicing medicine upon his release.