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'Dear Abby' letter writer charged with child pornography


MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (AP) --A man who wrote to "Dear Abby" for advice on how to handle 
his fantasies about having sex with girls was charged Wednesday with possessing child 
pornography after the columnist turned him in, authorities say.

"Dear Abby" columnist Jeanne Phillips, the daughter of the column's founder, Pauline 
Phillips, called police after receiving the letter.

Jeanne Phillips, who shares her mother's pen name Abigail Van Buren, said she agonized 
over whether to report the man, since the column's credibility is based on the 
anonymity given those seeking her advice.

"I lost sleep, didn't sleep for days, because I really believe this man wrote to me 
genuinely seeking help," she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I was torn, because 
my readers do turn to me for help, yet there was the priority of the safety of those 
young girls."

Phillips added: "I believe he was seeking help, and I hope that is considered and I 
hope he gets the help he so obviously needs."

She was said to be traveling Wednesday and did not return a call from The Associated 
Press.

The man, Paul Weiser, 28, was charged with three counts of possession of child 
pornography. The judge set his bail at $10,000, and ordered him to avoid computers and 
contact with anyone under 18. He was released Wednesday night; a family member who 
answered the door at his home declined comment.

Police said 40 pornographic photographs of children were found in his computer after 
his arrest Monday.

"He acknowledges he needs help and denies ever acting upon any desires," said 
prosecutor Paul Tiffin.

Weiser could get up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count, if 
convicted.

He did not speak during Wednesday's brief court hearing except to answer yes when the 
judge asked if he understood the proceedings. The judge also ordered Weiser to 
participate in a mental health program.

Tom Hayes, Weiser's attorney, said he hoped Phillips' call to the police would not 
deter others from seeking help. He declined further comment. A preliminary hearing was 
set for March 25.

Pauline Phillips created the "Dear Abby" column in 1956. Her daughter has contributed 
to the syndicated column since the early 1980s and took over most of the duties in the 
early 1990s. The column appears in more than 1,200 newspapers around the globe, 
according to Universal Press Syndicate.

The elder Phillips' twin sister, Eppie Lederer, is the advice columnist Ann Landers.

http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/03/13/dear.abby.arrest.ap/index.html

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