The story has been picked up by various news outlets, including a lengthy story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Here is some of the discussion by the WSJ Law Blog
For Karen Fletcher, the sentence imposed on her by a federal judge yesterday will not drastically alter her life. Yes, she was sentenced to five years probation. And yes, the first six months of those, she will be forced to remain inside her Donora home with few exceptions.
But Ms. Fletcher, an agoraphobic, has already spent years inside that house -- afraid to leave. She has no family, and only one friend. She spends the majority of her time alone, dealing with what she calls her "monsters." Those monsters are what landed her before U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti. Ms. Fletcher, 56, pleaded guilty to violating federal obscenity law based on a number of stories she wrote that depicted the rape, murder and torture of children.
Though she began writing the stories as a kind of self-imposed therapy, Ms. Fletcher published them on a Web site where she charged members a $10 per month subscription fee. She had 29 members. Nearly two years ago, the U.S. attorney's office filed six counts of transmission of obscene matters against Ms. Fletcher. She originally planned to fight the charges -- and had a team of First Amendment lawyers on her side -- but as the time neared for a trial, her fear of possibly losing and being sentenced to prison was too much for her. She faced a recommended guideline range of 27 to 33 months in prison. As part of her plea agreement, though, the government agreed incarceration was not appropriate.
That's not because prosecutors didn't believe it was a serious case, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman. "The premise of this prosecution is that words have power," he said. "The images conjured by Ms. Fletcher's words are as horrifying or more horrifying than any photographs or videos of child pornography which can be seen on the Internet."
... Judge Conti told Ms. Fletcher that she would have seriously considered a sentence of incarceration had the government not recommended against it. "If anyone would have read the story and acted upon it, a little child could have suffered devastation that you would have had to live with for the rest of your life," she said. In addition to probation and house arrest, Ms. Fletcher must also pay a $1,000 fine.