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Two Teens Face Child Porn Charges for Sexting

Teens Face Child Porn Charges After Sending Nude Pictures

child pornography chargesTwo teenagers in Fayetteville, North Carolina, have been charged as adults on child pornography charges. At the time, the two were 16 years old, and took nude selfies and sexted them to each other. Now, they are both 17; but, if they had one year older and caught sexting, they would not face severe pornographic crimes charges at all.  However, because the two teenagers possessed the images on their mobile phones, they face child pornography charges.

“No one even imagined how easy it would be for anybody to have a little device in their pocket with pictures like this,” said Diana Graber, co-founder of Cyberwise, a group that teaches online safety for parents and teachers, in an interview.

Because of the problem of smart phones with texting, online chat features, and an increasing number of apps like Snapchat, many states have begun reducing penalties for teenagers caught sexting nude photos so they do not have to register as sex offenders due to child pornography charges.

The North Carolina students were charged because investigators were warned of a potential statutory rape, and thought they might find evidence of this on a student’s phone. While the statutory rape charges were untrue, investigators did find nude photos on the 16 year old football player’s phone of another 16 year old student.

“We seized his phone and while our investigators went through the phone they saw there were photos of himself and another person,” said one of the investigators, Fayetteville police officer Sgt. Sean Swain.

When asked, the two admitted they had voluntarily exchanged nude photos.

“In North Carolina you are considered an adult at 16 years old as far as being charged,” Swain said. “But to disseminate and receive sexually explicit texts, photos or videos, you must be over 18.”

In the charges, the teenagers were listed as both culprits and victims in the child pornography exchange.

“[The teen’s] age traps him in a sort of sexting legal netherworld,” wrote North Carolina Lawyers Weekly. “He’s accused of exploiting a minor (himself), but because North Carolina is one of just two states that automatically tries 16-year-olds as adults, he’s being tried as an adult.”

“It’s dysfunctional to be charged with possession of your own image,” Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin and cyberbullying expert, told the Guardian in an interview regarding the bizarre child porn charges. “I don’t think it should be a criminal offense where there is no victim.”

“Where you have two kids who are in a relationship, they’re not trying to exploit each other … and they’re exchanging these kinds of photos, it seems to me that the cure is worse than the disease,” said Elizabeth Englander, a Bridgewater State University psychology professor.

Both teens face felony child porn charges, but under a plea deal with prosecutors, the charges will be reduced to misdemeanors.

“What they were charged with initially, the consequences were much too serious for the conduct,” Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West said.

About Pete Strom

Defending criminal charges including drug crimes, DUI, CDV, mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, computer crimes, money laundering, and juvenile crimes, Pete also handles Federal and State investigations. Representing individuals in Civil Matters including Class Actions, Personal Injury, Qui Tam Actions, Defective Products, Nursing Home Neglect, and Professional Licensing Defense cases. Joseph Preston “Pete” Strom, Jr., the managing partner at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C., has been fighting for justice since 1984.

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  1. […] North Carolina teenagers were arrested for sexting images to each other while under age. Federal child pornography law defined the teens as perpetrators of abuse against each other, as well as the victims of sexual […]

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