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October 12, 2009

Interesting local coverage of "sexting" problem

I just notices a pair of new articles in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reporting on the modern social problem of "sexting." The piece, available here and here, are headlined "Teens often don't grasp the consequences of sexting" and "Criminal charges from sexting can be heavy."  Here is the sentencing part of the story from second article, which describes parts of applicable Georgia law:

Sexting is a crime. When those photographs involve a minor and are of a sexual nature, they can be considered child pornography and lead to criminal prosecution.

Anyone caught possessing, distributing or manufacturing such pictures — even if they themselves are under age — can be charged with a felony that, depending on the circumstances, could carry a prison term ranging from 12 months to 20 years in prison.  Anyone convicted of these crimes, which include child molestation, possession/distribution of child pornography and enticing a minor will also be labeled as a sex offender.

“All of which are felonies,” said Sgt. Debra Bohannon with the Sex Crimes Unit of the Columbus Police Department. “That’s not even something these kids or their parents are thinking about. But they should.”

Sexual exploitation of a child, among the most common charges that Bohannon and the Sex Crimes Unit pursues in cases that might be defined as sexting, carries a penalty of no less than five and no more than 20 years in prison. “It depends on the totality of the crime,” Bohannon said. “It depends on the age of the sender, the age of the receiver, what was sent and how much was in their possession. There are a variety of circumstances that play into the exact charges that are filed.”

While specific numbers are difficult to calculate given the nature of sexting, Bohannon said the Sex Crimes Unit has been called in to investigate “numerous” cases involving what would be considered child pornography that’s been either captured or distributed by cell phones.

Her most recent case took place in mid-August and involved two 12-year-olds. No charges were filed. “A majority of the kids we see are in middle school,” Bohannon said. “We see some in high school, but most are sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade kids. And I’d be willing to say that a high, high percentage of the actual cases are handled in-house, either by the schools or by their parents.

Some related "sexting" posts:

October 12, 2009 at 10:38 AM | Permalink

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From the article:

"That means having frank and open conversations with their children about sex, about technology and the future that can be irretrievably ruined with the single press of a button."

It's obvious that we should more concerned about a legal system in which somebody's life, no matter their age, can be "irretrievably ruined with the single press of a button".

Posted by: jt | Oct 12, 2009 11:56:37 AM

So a child can consent to have sex with another child, but cannot take sexy pictures of him/herself then send them to that other child. This strains logic on many levels.

Posted by: Talitha | Oct 12, 2009 12:43:06 PM

This goes to deeper sentencing law and policy issues. Passing of the law is sufficient notice and serves as a deterrent, and many this age can be tried as adults.

Sexting kind of questions basic principles of our system.

Posted by: George | Oct 12, 2009 1:26:09 PM

Talitha. Yes, and there have been successful prosecutions on just that point.

"And I’d be willing to say that a high, high percentage of the actual cases are handled in-house, either by the schools or by their parents."

That's the part that should concern everyone. Betcha that whether or not they were handled directly by the parents or by the legal system is directly correlated to social-economic status.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 12, 2009 3:28:16 PM

Child porn possession is prosecuted to prevent child abuse. In the case of sexting, what child abuse has taken place to be prevented by prosecuting self-publishing kids? The prosecution of these kids implies, the reason for child porn possession laws is not to prevent child abuse, but to generate lawyer jobs for feminist lawyers. The prosecution of misconduct that is really the business of parents and school officials is expansion of government replacement of both those sources of authority. The government is a wholly owned subsidiary of the CCE. What should be effectively prevented by a good spanking, will now generate a trial and bunches of lawyer jobs. Where is the harm of this crime?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 12, 2009 4:10:25 PM

SC. Because 80% of all child abuse cases are caused by relatives and friends. The problem with resolving it "in-house" is that the abuse is taking place in house. What, you don't think that kids lie to protect their family.

You know, there is a reason why we allow police to bring charges against a spouse even when the abused spouse objects. It's doubly true for children. *Society* has an interest in prosecuting these crimes because there is a tremendous social cost to the crime in terms of mental health.

Everyone keeps insisting that these teens are engaged in innocent conduct without any proof that this is so. Are these cases investigated by forensic experts with expertise in child abuse and child pornography production. Only if the defendant has buck teeth and talks like Cletus.

Sincerely, how many kids have been thrown right back into the maw of despair because the adults charged with protecting them and upholding the law didn't want to offend anyone's classest sensibilities. It's disgusting.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 12, 2009 5:28:44 PM

The child abuse mentioned is done to the criminal lover lawyer's released criminal's own children. There would be far less child abuse under 123D. Once children discover sex acts, they do not restrain themselves as adults can. They then victimize many more, because they love sex and they learn fast. The disease of the lawyer criminal client spreads exponentially, as a virus might.

However, sexting refers to self photography and sending to friends. These friends then post the pics somewhere. Child abuse by an adult is not involved. Please, address the post, and not collateral problems, all caused by the lawyer anyway, the sexual abuse of children by adults.

Pedophilia will be the next phony civil rights cause, once homosexuals get superior legal privileges to spread disease and to make a mockery of the American family. The latter is a moribund institution that must be saved from the onslaught of the vile feminist lawyer, for the sake of all children.

Here, courageous girls are standing up to the DA bully.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/27/earlyshow/main4896577.shtml

I feel sick that it is the ACLU representing them, generating more lawyer bullshit.

I feel sick that it was a federal judge that blocked this nitwit. This is where a member of the hierarchy does the right thing, and rebuts my call for its mass eradication.

http://wcco.com/national/Sexting.Judge.Federal.2.971916.html

In Pennsylvania, they rezone houses with a flic of the Bic. Rezone this nitwit DA. Send him to Ohio.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 12, 2009 8:50:04 PM

"However, sexting refers to self photography and sending to friends. These friends then post the pics somewhere. Child abuse by an adult is not involved."

That's what all pedophiles claim.

It's a lie.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 12, 2009 10:08:45 PM

"That's what all pedophiles claim.

It's a lie."

It's an ipse dixit.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 12, 2009 10:56:46 PM

Daniel,

I find your comments in this thread to be very strange. Do you dispute the claim that the pictures in these cases are taken by teens, often of themselves, and then sent on with little thought of possible ramifications? If so, based on what evidence?

Personally I find these types of cases amongst the most compelling example of why putting CP outside 1st amendment protection is such a bad idea. In many of the highlighted cases the teens in question are in fact dressed. So when a teenager takes a picture of themselves or friends to memorialize the occasion they are producing something illegal, but when a magazine actually poses an underage model while keeping her dressed that's just fine. It makes no sense.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 12, 2009 11:52:04 PM

"Do you dispute the claim that the pictures in these cases are taken by teens, often of themselves, and then sent on with little thought of possible ramifications? If so, based on what evidence?"

Yes, I dispute the *certainty* of the claim. It's self serving. Under the law, these pictures are prima facie evidence of child porn possession. Yet too many people are willing to accept the "innocent" explanation simply because of the color of child's skin or their socio-economic class. The thief who is caught red-handed is of course going to tell you it's just house paint. But no competent officer of the law is going to accept that claim at face value.

As far as I know no one is claiming that in this specific case these pictures are not child porn; they are claiming that this entire class of pictures should be excluded. And it's this claim about the way a class of pictures should be treated that I object too. The evidence I've laid out in plenty of prior posts in previous threads. Simply put, most children are abused by people they are close too. Children frequently lie to protect their abusers. They are groomed by their abusers to do this. Accepting claims of innocent production shows a profound and disturbing lack of understanding about both child abuse and the MOs of child abusers. It is a deliberate and willful blindness.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 13, 2009 1:49:31 AM

Are pics of kids in underwear child porn, automatically? How about pics of little kids taking a bath? Those are not sexually arousing to an ordinary het supremacist. They are merely sentimental. A federal judge enjoined the over-reaching prosecutor. If there were any justice, this foul rent seeking lawyer would be made to pay all costs from only personal assets. To deter the crazies that bring opprobrium and ridicule on the lawyer profession.

In the absence of case specific evidence, the assertion that child abuse by adults presumptively took place in sexting must be based on psychic ability. This psychic claim also implies thirteen year olds do not think about sex unless made to by adults, when they likely think of nothing else.

While that psychic presuming may be acceptable in the Twilight Zone world of the effed up lawyer, it is not acceptable even to a cabdriver in a jury pool. Such bias has professional responsibility implications in more scientifically, empirically based professions. It should disqualify the expert, for example, for bias, presuming, and psychic ability claims. Whatever the cause of this agenda, experts cannot serve both the court and their agendas. They have to choose.

There was a wave of feminist rampage attributing a wide variety of psychological symptoms to male sexual abuse of children in the 1980's and 1990's, even to ritual child sacrifice by males. This accusation was borrowed from longstanding, standard, antisemitic false accusations by church officials and politicians. These were used to expel rich Jews and to confiscate their assets for the church. Same for males in the feminist and homosexual hate agendas dominated lawyer profession today.

Lawsuits for the implantation of false memories ended that anti-scientific garbage in the 1990's. These feminists implanted these memories even into defendants who falsely confessed to horrendous ritual crimes, when they had done nothing. This baseless psychic stuff is from that era. Those who hold that belief are feminists until proven otherwise.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 13, 2009 6:10:11 AM

Daniel,

I am not aware of many child abuse (or any other type of abuse for that matter) cases where the victim gladly shares evidence of the abuse with their friends. In fact my understanding is that victims of abuse do all that they can to hide it out of a sense of shame. What am I missing here?

Are you claiming that willingness to send such pictures is an indication of other abuse, that kids wouldn't do such things in the absence of abuse? I would agree with SC that teenagers will have periods where they think of little besides sex, technology has simply reached a point where it is incredibly easy to keep a record of /everything/.

Given that it is almost always possible to track cell phone pictures back to an originating unit I have a hard time believing that prosecutors wouldn't include adults as well if it turned out they were involved. Instead you have situations where 13 and 15 year-olds are punished for taking pictures of themselves, again often fully dressed (just skimpily). And their friends are punished for holding onto such images.

What kind of notice of the law is it for someone to be punished for taking pictures of their friends in bikinis while a magazine can get away with deliberately posing a model of the same age in a provocative manner? Are you claiming that it is actually someone else taking the pictures or at least forcing the pictures to be taken? Again that does not make sense with regard to the sharing patterns I've seen discussed, unless you are going to claim that too is part of the abuse. But again it does not make sense to me that three girls, each of whom possess a picture of themselves in bras would not turn on some mystery abuser. One of them hiding the truth perhaps, but not all of them when they are facing a felony.

You seem to be grasping for a complicated answer where much simpler ones fit nicely. You need to show some evidence that the simple answer is in fact wrong before I'll accept your assertions for that complex answer.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 13, 2009 9:13:31 AM

"I am not aware of many child abuse (or any other type of abuse for that matter) cases where the victim gladly shares evidence of the abuse with their friends. In fact my understanding is that victims of abuse do all that they can to hide it out of a sense of shame."

By "your understanding" I assume you mean something you made up in your head with no basis in fact? I think that's about right. Seriously, you think you are making an argument but you come across as simply ignorant. There's nothing complicated about it.

"Are you claiming that willingness to send such pictures is an indication of other abuse, that kids wouldn't do such things in the absence of abuse?"

Now you're just being obtuse. I won't repeat myself again.

"Given that it is almost always possible to track cell phone pictures back to an originating unit I have a hard time believing that prosecutors wouldn't include adults as well if it turned out they were involved."

Belief is the right word here. You have no facts, just beliefs which really is a kind word for bias. There are no facts, in any of the articles of this topic that Doug has linked too, that indicate prosecutors are doing any such thing. In fact, in the article at hand the person is saying that most of these cases don't even make it too the prosecutors. I assume you think that the school principles who are dealing with this cases act like the FBI? Oh please.

Stop rambling out of ignorance. Educate yourself, then we can talk.

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 13, 2009 12:18:00 PM

Daniel,

I will freely admit to not being an expert in such things. But the stereotypical abuse victim hiding the beating behind makeup or pretending to be clumsy had to come from somewhere. Perhaps shame is not the correct motivating factor, fear might do, or some other force. The reason doesn't matter so long as abuse victims do in fact try to hide or deny that they are being abused. Is the same not true with sexual abuse?

You seem to be arguing against the audit trail of where the pictures come from. That does not seem like a winning strategy to me. Teenagers do almost everything else without considering the long term effects of their actions. Why would taking pictures of themselves and friends be any different?

Also, with the typical child exploitation example, does the victim tend to keep evidence of their own abuse? I understand that adults in such situations often use porn as a lure, but I see that as something different. It is one thing to view or keep pictures of others, quite another to keep pictures of yourself.

Your statements would make more sense if these cases demonstrated the sorts of coordinated nationwide and cross border sharing patterns seen with more traditional CP violations where the same victims are seen over and over. As far as I can tell from the news however the vast majority of sexting cases arise from much more localized distribution mostly confined to individual schools or other social circles.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 13, 2009 12:58:27 PM

Daniel-

I was involved in a discussion in Professor Berman's class on sexting, I have read numerous articles on sexting, and I have discussed sexting at my job with various members of the criminal law community, but your posts here are the first time I have read someone taking a sexual abuse angle on sexting. Most articles seem to discuss the sexual exploration and peer pressure arguments on why sexting appears to be exploding as technology advances. Instead of being hostile to the other posters on this cite, why don't you educate all of us more on your views?

Posted by: Shawn | Oct 13, 2009 12:59:10 PM

Daniel: In simple declarative sentences, tell what is bothering you about sexting. Then in simple internet links or publication citations point us to the data that supports your concern. Repeat what you trying to say. Is sexting a reliable sign of sexual abuse by adults, and should lead to investigation.

Otherwise, you are a feminist, hate speech mongering, vile running dog, promulgating false accusations of entire classes mostly of the male kind, no better than the anti-semites that alleged the same ritual child sacrifices against the Jews. And please, do not make me try to read your mind. "Now you're just being obtuse. I won't repeat myself again." You are not a law school professor here, addressing obsequious cult recruits. I encourage all law students to throw food at any professor who dares address his employers, the law students, in such an inappropriate manner. Those are cult criminals, indoctrinators, and human garbage. They should not be feared. They should fear the students, instead.

Something is bothering you about sexting. What is it? We love you, and want to help you. Me, I find sexting to be an immature form of courtship and harmless, silly, a misconduct to be remedied by school and parental discipline. It is the DA that needs to be caned in this instance. Post the vid on YouTube to deter the rent seeking cult criminals.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 14, 2009 12:08:38 AM

These freaks are too afraid to give their lectures titles.

http://www.law.uh.edu/center4clp/events/children-sex-law-2009/agenda.asp

There still be some courageous parents out there who will come over and beat the ass of the lawyer freak.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 14, 2009 11:23:36 PM

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