Joshua Glen Box, a registrant from Springdale, Arkansas, will likely forever be known as “the man with no nose” who was twice-convicted of possession of child pornography. His latest conviction, dated August 28, 2018, was the result of pleading guilty to one count of receiving material involving the sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of possessing material involving the sexual exploitation of a minor under 12 years old. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss three other counts of receiving child pornography as part of the plea deal. Box was previously convicted of possession of child pornography in August of 2015
Box was first arrested in North Carolina in 2015 following an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The ICAC Task Force identified a computer located at a residence that turned out to be Box’s. He was offering to share child pornography using an internet file sharing program. During their investigation, Box admitted to officers that he had been downloading child pornography since he was 15 years old.
During his first trial, Box told jurors that he was a recluse and suicidal because of his facial disfigurement and spent all of his time browsing and downloading pornography. He did not disclose the cause of his disfigurement, nor did he offer an explanation for why he chose to distribute the child pornography commercially.
There has been rampant speculation in the media and on internet message boards that Box suffered his facial disfigurement due to a botched suicide attempt following his 2015 arrest, but since he referred to his injuries during the 2015 trial, that explanation seems untenable. He has no record of arrests or convictions prior to 2015. Box served two years in prison for his first conviction and was released in May 2018. Upon release, he moved to Springdale, Arkansas and was rearrested just a few weeks later in June 2018.
There are several disturbing aspects of this case, on many levels.
First and foremost, at least from this writer’s perspective, has been the news media’s frenzy to portray Joshua Box as a real-life “boogeyman.” National and local headlines focused with laser intensity on the phrase “Man With No Nose,” and invariably featured larger-than-life photos of the accused. The portrayal was (and continues to be) determined to depict him as a repulsive monster; a side-show freak. His excoriation in the media has taken the usual dehumanization of registrants to such an extreme that it borders on parody.
Secondly, I find it interesting that his first conviction in 2015 for possession and distribution of child pornography came at the end of a two-year investigation by a dedicated law enforcement task force. Yet, his recent arrest in Arkansas came just a couple of weeks after his release from prison and subsequent move to Springdale, Arkansas. We may never know for certain the actual circumstances that led to his re-arrest, but it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that he was set up to fail or targeted by law enforcement to be “run out of town.”
Third, the idea that Box will be sentenced to at least 35 years in prison (and possibly far more) for this crime seems somewhat draconian. As far as anyone knows, there was never any physical abuse of any children by Box that has been reported. Child porn is not a victimless crime, as some people like to think. It is a product of sexual abuse, and its effects often haunt the victims for a lifetime. Child pornography is a very serious offense. That’s a given. But consider the fact that the average murderer in the United States serves 18-22 years for actually killing someone, and you’ll understand why the length of his sentence might be concerning.
Fourth, every media outlet claims to have no idea how Box’s facial disfigurement came into being. Frankly, I find this patently unbelievable. A person doesn’t lose half of his face without someone knowing what happened. Not in this day and age. So, is this a simple case of media laziness, or could there be more to this than meets the eye? Is it possible that whatever the cause of his disfigurement might be, the media is afraid that it might actually inspire some sympathy for Joshua Box? You can’t have the public empathizing with your boogeyman. That defeats the whole purpose of having a boogeyman in the first place.
Finally, we’re left with an awful lot of questions that no one in the media seems interested in asking. Questions like, was he on probation? If so, where was his probation officer? Where and how did he live? Did he have a job or any prospects for one? Did he have friends, family, or support groups? What would possess this person to go right back to his criminal activities mere weeks after his release from prison? How was this most recent case investigated and/or solved? So many questions; so few answers.
All we are given is a freak-show photograph and the media’s rising drumbeat of sex offender hysteria. Whatever Joshua Box may be guilty of, he is still a human being, and deserves better than that.