Subway, Jared Fogle, and the Face of Child Pornography

Jared Fogle, the former spokesman for Subway, has reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in which Fogle will enter a guilty plea to the charges of possessing child pornography and travelling across state lines to have sex with teenage girls.

Though there was no publicly available case naming Fogle as a criminal defendant in the U.S. District Court for Southern Indiana when the news of the plea agreement broke, it has been reported that Fogle and his attorney reached a deal that will result in Fogle spending between five and twelve and a half years in federal prison.

First and foremost, the fact there was no publicly available case against Fogle is not surprising. Many times in federal criminal prosecutions, the U.S. Attorney's office will contact the suspect or the suspect's attorney and inform him or her that he or she has the opportunity to meet with the prosecution to enter a plea agreement in lieu of facing a federal indictment.

Considering the fact that Fogle's Zionsville home was raided by federal agents in early July, and that the agents seized various computers and DVDs from the home, it is possible that the seized storage devices contained enough incriminating evidence to convince Fogle (and his attorney) that his best play is to plea out.

Which brings me to my next point: representing individuals charged with child-pornography-related crimes is tough. I mean, its really tough.

Obviously the most difficult aspect of these cases, for both the prosecution and the defense attorney, is simply reviewing the discovery in the case. Personally, I have represented criminal defendants charged with everything from simple possession of child pornography all the way to distributing and manufacturing child pornography. Each case is difficult, and it never gets any easier.

Regardless, everyone is entitled to his or her own personal defense in this country, and my business is to provide those individuals with the best defense I can muster.

I have experienced both extremes in representing defendants with these charges. I have won acquittals at jury trial in child pornography cases, and I have also seen some clients get lengthy sentences due to the images and videos they possessed, distributed, or manufactured.

Consequently, there is only one aspect of these types of cases that continues to surprise me. When you see a man or woman (yes, women do get charged with possession of child pornography as well) facing these allegations, you see just that: a criminal defendant facing allegations that he or she violated the law. There is no stereotypical defendant in these cases, and there is no way to judge the book by its cover.

Case in point: how many of you have looked at Jared Fogle over the past 15 years he has been in the media and thought to yourself, "well, that guy certainly looks like he possesses child pornography"? Not many, I would guess.

The same rings true for Russell Taylor, the former director of Fogle's charity. Taylor is currently incarcerated in a federal prison, awaiting trial on eight offenses stemming from the production and possession of child pornography. Sure, his hair is a little disheveled in his mug shot, and he certainly doesn't appear to happy to have his picture taken, but other than that he looks like your regular Joe Schmo.

This isn't a situation akin to someone charged with possession of methamphetamine...more often than not, you can guess whether that individual is a user. In those cases, there are tell-tale signs that are fairly standard across the board. That's just not the case with defendants charged with possession of child pornography.

Moreover, I can tell you from experience that possession of such lewd subject matter is not secluded to any certain demographic. I've represented clients across the cultural spectrum, ranging from teenagers all the way to the elderly. I have seen business executives charged with possession of child porn. I have seen bums living in chicken coups catch the same charges (don't ask me how these people get a hold of a computer).

Truth be told, your average person charged with possession of child pornography isn't the quintessential creepy old-man-pervert predator...he's the guy living next door. He's the guy on television trying to sell you a sandwich.

So, when all the dust settles and Jared Fogle is likely behind bars, what does this situation show? Well, it shows that Fogle definitely had a few skeletons in his closet that he nor Subway wished to have exposed. But Fogle's situation, and the national exposure it has brought to child pornography, further the thoughts of Margo Kaplan, an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Law, in regards to pedophilia (the two paraphilias are not one in the same but often go hand-in-hand).

According to Kaplan, pedophilia is a mental illness, and the focus should be on treatment from qualified medical professionals as opposed to simply sticking the perpetrator in a jail cell. She postulates that pedophilia is a disorder more than it is any kind of cognitive choice or decision on the part of the perpetrator. I honestly believe its very possible the same could be true for individuals who desire, or are addicted to, child pornography.

Obviously, this view does not, in any way, excuse those who harm or exploit children. However, it makes more sense than the idea that anyone would, or even could, make a conscious decision to start enjoying child pornography or sex with minors. Does anyone think that Jared Fogle simply woke up one morning and thought to himself, "You know, this sandwich thing is going so well that I think I'm going to start possessing child pornography."?

Doubtful.

It is much more likely that Jared Fogle's desire to possess and procure child pornography is a disorder the man was born with. I would not be surprised if his predilection for this form of pornography has been a constant struggle much of his adult life.

Does the internal-demon absolve any exterior guilt? No, but it could go a long way in aiding the general public's further understanding of how and why individuals find themselves in such compromising positions.

Like it or not, in the wake of his criminal charges, Jared Fogle has become (albeit, unwillingly) the national face of child pornography. What he decides to due with this new-found spotlight and notoriety is completely up to him. Hopefully, he will use this "platform" to bring as much awareness to his struggles with pedophilia and child pornography as he brought to his struggles with obesity.