Sexting kids to get charged as pornographers E-mail
Written by APB Staff   

When you think of child pornographers, the last image that comes to mind is a teenage girl. But as sexting becomes ever more popular with kids, prosecutors are increasingly seeking to charge minors with child pornography. In one of the more recent cases out of Wyoming, a teenage girl who appeared topless in a “sexting” cell phone picture that was shared electronically with her middle-school classmates should face child-pornography charges, a Pennsylvania prosecutor argued before a U.S. appellate court.

In the first U.S. case to test the constitutional status of “sexting,” the American Civil Liberties Union countered that the incident does not come close to meeting the definition of child pornography. Those charges usually involve adults trafficking in images and videos depicting graphic sexual acts with minors for commercial gain.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals was considering a March 2009 court ruling that said the images, in which teenagers sent sexually suggestive pictures of themselves to their friends by cellphones or the Internet, fall under the U.S. Constitution’s free speech protections. Officials of the Tunkhannock School District in Pennsylvania called the county prosecutor’s office in January 2008 after finding pictures on the cell phones of the 16 students.

Most of the kids’ families agreed to undertake a “re-education” program organized by the prosecutor, but three refused. Prosecutors were seeking to press charges against one of those three, who were all girls. Pictures showed two of the girls wearing white bras and another standing topless outside a shower with a towel wrapped around her waist, according to the ACLU.

The pictures did not show any sexual activity. MaryJo Miller, the mother of the girl that prosecutors want to charge with child pornography, said the images don’t come remotely close to what most people would consider to be pornographic content. Miller told a throng of reporters that when she saw the picture, she thought the girls were “goofballs,” Miller told reporters.

“It was a training bra. You are going to see more provocative photos in a Victoria’s Secret catalog.” But the county argued that the pictures were pornographic because they were disseminated for the “purposes of sexual stimulation” and so would be of great interest to child molesters.

The case raises some interesting questions like whether or not prosecutors should be in the “re-education of children” business. Appellate Judge Thomas Amber said prosecutors are not entitled to try to “re-educate” minors.

“I don’t know of anything that allows the district attorney’s office to play the role of teacher,” he told reporters.

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