For two years in the middle of the night, Paul Lotsof’s voice interrupted the music on CAVE 97.7 FM, the oldies country station that he owns, with what he believed was a vital public service announcement.

“In many cases, the penalty for possession of pictures is worse than the penalty for murder,” Lotsof’s PSA to his Arizona audience would say. “You should understand that your Internet provider could report you to the police if they catch you looking at a website featuring naked juveniles.”

Lotsof wasn’t telling listeners not to look at child pornography, though, but how to look at it without getting caught.

“If you have such material, you can save yourselves and your family a ton of grief and save the taxpayers a lot of money by never storing such pictures on the hard drive of your computer,” the PSA continued. “Always use an external drive and hide it where nobody will ever find it. Likewise, never keep paper pictures, tapes or films of naked juveniles where anybody else can find them.”

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It seems Lotsof’s PSA aired without issue until earlier this week, when members of his Tucson-area community of Benson created a Change.org petition calling on the Federal Communications Commission to revoke his radio license over the “heinous broadcast.”

Then a local TV station reported a story on the PSA and the Cochise County Sheriff called it “disturbing.”

Now, Lotsof has pulled his warning from the airwaves altogether because some of his advertisers have received threats.

But he’s not backing away from why he recorded the PSA in the first place: Arizona’s penalties for possession of child pornography, he believes, are far too harsh.

“Nobody put me up to it, and nobody paid,” Lotsof told the Associated Press. “My feeling is that these people don’t deserve life in prison just because they have pictures of naked juveniles.”

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Indeed, Arizona’s sentencing guidelines for possessing, creating or distributing child pornography are among the most severe in the nation. Sexual exploitation of a minor is a class 2 felony in Arizona and carries a minimum sentence of 10 years per violation, according to the state’s criminal code.

“There’s no picture in the world that’s that dangerous,” Lotsof told NBC affiliate News 4 Tucson earlier this week.

He claimed there was “no connection” between the people who actually create and distribute child pornography and those who only possess it.

“The difference is one case, you’re molesting children and abusing them, causing children to do things that are not natural for children to do,” Lotsof told New 4 Tucson, “and the other case, they’re just possessing pictures.”

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In an email to the Arizona Republic, Lotsof said his PSA “does not condone child pornography in any way,” but “merely points out that the penalties for possession of child pornography are draconian.”

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“The real victims,” Lotsof added, “are the people serving these incredibly long sentences.”

Carol Capas, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff’s Office, told the Republic it is “sickening” to hear people say “a picture isn’t a crime.”

“It is a crime,” Capas said. “Those children are victims of a crime.”

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, data suggests that at least 100,000 American children are sexually exploited each year. A study of those perpetrators arrested for possessing child pornography found that 40 percent had also been accused of raping children.

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“Child victims suffer at the hands of the offender who sexually exploited them,” the center’s website says. “This harm is compounded when the offender memorializes the victimization by taking photos or videos and then distributing these images on the Internet where additional offenders use them for purposes of sexual gratification.”

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The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the PSA violates state law, Capas told the Republic. In a statement, Sheriff Mark Dannels said that his office “will continue to seek legal advice on actions that can be taken for the content that has already been released and to ensure this kind of information is not released again.”

“This is very disturbing to know that a member of our local media, who should be one of the responsible groups of people to provide factual information to our public to keep them safe, is promoting and encouraging criminal behavior,” Dannels said, describing the PSA as “disgusting and unacceptable” propaganda that “encourages evil behavior.”

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“Freedom of speech does not include telling people to commit crimes,” he said, “and continuing to pass on this information could lead to judicial action being taken.”

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But Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre told the Associated Press that Lotsof’s PSA was protected speech under the First Amendment.

“This individual just happens to have a platform that maybe others don’t and is advocating beliefs that are personally repugnant to me,” McIntyre said.

The Federal Communications Commission does not enforce requirements or restrictions on the content of PSAs, spokeswoman Janice Wise told the Associated Press.

“It’s up to the station to determine their [community’s] public interest,” she said.

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In his statement defending the PSA, Lotsof said he was simply providing his audience with facts.

“That information is perfectly accurate and important,” he said.

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