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6 Pennsylvania Teens Face Child Porn Charges For Pics of Selves 1044

Posted by timothy
from the nudity-is-for-in-person-only dept.
mikesd81 writes "MSNBC reports six Pennsylvania high school students are facing child pornography charges after three teenage girls allegedly took nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and shared them with male classmates via their cell phones. Apparently, female students at Greensburg Salem High School in Greensburg, Pa., all 14 or 15 years old, face charges of manufacturing, disseminating or possessing child pornography while the boys, who are 16 and 17, face charges of possession. Police told the station that the photos were discovered in October, after school officials seized a cell phone from a male student who was using it in violation against school policy and the photos were discovered at that time. Police Capt. George Seranko was quoted as saying that the first photograph was 'a self portrait taken of a juvenile female taking pictures of her body, nude.' The school district issued a statement Tuesday saying that the investigation turned up 'no evidence of inappropriate activity on school grounds ... other than the violation of the electronic devices policy.'"
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6 Pennsylvania Teens Face Child Porn Charges For Pics of Selves

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  • by Trekologer (86619) <adb&trekologer,net> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @12:43PM (#26530195) Homepage

    Most notably did the school have the right to search the student's phone/does a student have the expectation of privacy. There have been varying rulings over whether the police can search a cell phone or PDA of an individual placed under arrest. In the case of a school, they are not the police and do not have the authority of the police (despite some administrators thinking that they do).

  • by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @12:46PM (#26530253)

    While you are in highschool your rights are suspended.
    A little like prison only you've commited no crime and get to go home more.

  • by mtg169 (1257810) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @12:55PM (#26530381)
    Similar cases like this are popping up all over the country. I did some research awhile ago and found a case in Pennsylvania, Klump vs. Nazareth, and the courts actually found the school guilty of violating the students' privacy and constitutional rights by looking at the contents of their phone. This case basically stated that although the school can have a no cell phone use policy, it does not give the school or school officials the privilege to search the contents of the phone at will unless it is believed that the student is using the phone to violate another policy (IE: using the phone to cheat). The point is, in order for any school official to search cell phone contents, the student would have to be violating another policy other than the no cell phone use policy. Being that this case is also in PA, it could be used as case law and charges would most likely be thrown out. PDF here: http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/06D0400P.pdf [uscourts.gov]
  • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @12:55PM (#26530395)
    Frame fail -- you can view child pornography as long as you report it immediately and destroy it as soon as it has been collected as evidence by the police.
  • Re:Finally happened (Score:4, Informative)

    by Walpurgiss (723989) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @12:59PM (#26530455)
    This already happened like a year ago. A couple had a picture of themselves and it was sent via email. http://www.boingboing.net/2007/02/20/teen-couple-who-phot.html [boingboing.net]

    And here's the ruling that Child Porn laws apply to minors, that will probably be referred to in the current case. And this all was at the start of 2007. http://politechbot.com/docs/child.porn.laws.apply.to.minors.020807.html [politechbot.com]
  • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Irish_Samurai (224931) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:03PM (#26530527)

    How the fuck is this a troll?

    Charging a child with taking their own picture is punishing the victim!

    Jesus people.

  • Also in Utah (Score:5, Informative)

    by ink (4325) * on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:12PM (#26530677) Homepage

    Charges coming in Davis County over nude photos [deseretnews.com]

    "It's out there and it's happening," Dunn said. "It's felonies, potentially federal felonies, and kids are clueless. They think that because the person is across the room and you're sending it across the room that it isn't a big deal. It's not the case."

    These kids could end up on the sex-offender registry, which would further deflate its usefulness and also deny a whole host of opportunities from these kids. What they did amounts to "show me yours, I'll show you mine" in my opinion -- but our culture is so wrapped up in sex offender mania that we're conflating rapists with innocent behavior.

    When we bought our house close to the University of Utah, we looked on the state's sex offender registry and were alarmed by all the incidents around. After drilling down to specific cases, however, it turns out that most of them were of the drunken-college-student variety. Now, when I hear that someone is a "sex offender", I'm not certain if they are a violent rapist, or if they took a dare to run down the block naked.

  • by Tacvek (948259) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:13PM (#26530685) Journal

    Unfortunately, most of the unlawful search and other illegal evidence laws apply primarily to the police, not to actions taken by others. Often times, if somebody else obtains the evidence, even illegally it can be used by the prosecution in the case. The party that obtained the evidence illegally could potentially be subject to prosecution as well, but that is not surprising.

    Now not all evidence works like this. For example phone recordings in some states may be inadmissible as evidence if the state's rules regarding it are not met, even when neither party is the police. But in most cases, as long as it was not the police (or prosecution) that obtained the evidence illegally it is admissible.

    Now in this case, this is moot. No warrant was necessary. Anybody (police or otherwise) may search property without any warrant if the owner of said property agrees to the search, and any evidence obtained is admissible. In general, although there are exceptions such as probable cause, law enforcement requires warrants to search a person's property against his/her will. Private individuals never need a warrant to do this, although usually searching of property by a private individual against the property owners will is a crime. However, school officials generally have the legal right to search any property on school grounds. Thus the evidence was lawful.

    IANAL, but all the above is my understanding of how it works.

  • Re:Family album (Score:3, Informative)

    by hansamurai (907719) <hansamurai@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:16PM (#26530741) Homepage Journal

    I have a four month old son and we've been taking constant pictures and video of him. The other day we uploaded a private Google Video of us giving him a bath to share with his grandmothers. I suppose I could probably go to jail for even suggesting we record his smiling face in the sink.

  • by trmj (579410) <tmacfarlan @ g m a il.com> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:41PM (#26531163) Journal

    It may have been years since I researched this topic, and it may have been in a Pennsylvania public school that the paper was written, but here's what I can recall from memory about the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution, specifically about illegal search and seizure and how it relates to public schools:

    Police entering the school to complete a search are just that: Police. As such, they are bound to the full effect of any Local, State, and Federal laws regarding search and seizure. That part is clear-cut and dry. Immediately after that, however, it gets fuzzy.

    For example, a student's locker is their personal space, right? Not always. It's government property, but there is a confidence held with the school that possessions stored within specifically designated areas will remain private. This has gone both ways in court, and largely depends on the circumstances.

    If the police want to avoid that whole argument, then they have the easiest of ways to have that space searched and items collected: school administrators. This is where a student will realize that, because they are under 18 (and under 21 in some states), they have very little say in the situation.

    Police need Probable Cause to search without a warrant. School administrators need only "Reasonable Belief", also called "Reason to Suspect" or one of many other phrases. As long as the student or the property are on school grounds, a school administrator has full and complete privilege to any of that students belongings, and the option to detain the student against their will until Police arrive.

    So, what constitutes Reasonable Belief? Quote simple, really: anything at all. Did the kid look funny? Did the administrator think they overheard a foul comment? Reason to believe.

    This may have been a long way of getting around to it, however the fact remains that this cell phone was taken in accordance with the law and is fully permissible as evidence. It doesn't matter why the administrators were looking through the kid's pictures, they can claim anything now.

    The real test of law here is whether child pornography prosecution can be used against minors who willingly took and distributed the pictures of themselves. Furthermore, can the boys be charged for receipt of something they did not have the option to reject? I don't know about you, but I don't have a choice to reject an SMS on my phone, it just accepts it no matter what.

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:43PM (#26531205)
    Yeah any of these nudist sites that have been online for years feature girls of all ages in undress and its right out in the open, any google search pulls these sites up in large numbers. Why are those sites still up? They are not porn, just nude pictures. These girls images would be the same, and additionally they are not published in the public domain they are private images the public has no business or concern here.
  • by QRDeNameland (873957) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:47PM (#26531289)
    According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

    The age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16 years of age. Teenagers aged 13, 14 and 15 may legally engage in sexual activity with partners who are less than 4 years older.

    So it would seem in PA that though 14 is under the age of consent for an adult, a 17 year old having sex with a 14 year old would not be illegal. Looking at the rest of the page, this would seem to be typical of most states.

  • by hattig (47930) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:47PM (#26531295) Journal

    It just means that the term "sex offender" is meaningless.

    The dangerous people get lost in the crowd.

    Not one brain cell has gone into thinking these policies through.

  • by DM9290 (797337) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:50PM (#26531331) Journal

    Like it or not, agree with it or not, minors do not legally have civil rights so they can not be infringed upon.

    They don't have the right to vote, and they are considered mentally incompetent. But yes, they do have civil rights.

  • by AnyoneEB (574727) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:51PM (#26531369)
    Sorta. Wikipedia has the full details [wikipedia.org], but here is the relevant part:

    The age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16 years of age. Teenagers aged 13, 14 and 15 may legally engage in sexual activity with partners who are less than 4 years older.

  • by drspliff (652992) <harry.roberts@NOSPAM.midnight-labs.org> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @01:57PM (#26531493)

    My interpretation of the PROTECT Act of 2003 [sonnenschein.com] from the point of view of a website admin is that if I do find child pornography it's my "Duty to Report" [as specified by SEC. 2258A.a.1] all the information along with the offending material to one of the two organizations setup to investigate it, then to preserve all that stuff [as specified by SEC. 2258A.h]

    Then... under SEC. 2258B I'm given immunity from prosecution while storing all that stuff as long as a few requirements are met regarding limiting access to employees.

    ''(a) IN GENERAL.--Except as provided in subsection (b), a civil claim or criminal charge against an electronic communication service provider, a remote computing service provider, or domain name registrar, including any director, officer, employee, or agent of such electronic communication service provider, remote com- puting service provider, or domain name registrar arising from the performance of the reporting or preservation responsibilities of such electronic communication service provider, remote com- puting service provider, or domain name registrar under this sec- tion, section 2258A, or section 2258C may not be brought in any Federal or State court.

    So basically yes:

    someone contacting the cops saying "come collect the child porn I have" will be given a medal rather than thrown in jail?

    That's exactly how it works, although you don't get any medals.

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Hordeking (1237940) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @02:18PM (#26531917)

    When you're super-conservative, nudity=thinking forbidden thoughts=sin. Logical solution? Remove sources of nudity to prevent sin. As an added bonus, Think of the Children will garner votes.

    I'm pretty right wing conservative, and I don't agree with your observation. The school should have given those kids a good, stern talking-to, maybe detention (or some non-legal-record-generating, appropriate punishment) for their actions, and probably contacted their parents.

    I quite resent this sort of behavior on the part of our various bureaucracies.

    Also, how does one charge a child with possession and/or manufacturing of child porn? As individuals with no (legal) ability to consent, shouldn't they be considered victims of the crime?

  • by JimBobJoe (2758) <<swiftheart> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @02:19PM (#26531941)

    Saranko indicated that authorities decided to file

    I just confirmed that the Westmoreland County District Attorney's office will be handling this case.

    I'd ask any interested slashdotters to call the Westmoreland District Attorney's office and tell them that the prosecution of these individuals:

    a.) is not in the interest of the individuals involved
    b.) is not upholding the intent of the statutes as written
    c.) is completely stupid, without merit and lacking in common sense
    c.) will be an embarrassment to the district attorney when he runs for re-election in 2010, should the voters of Westmoreland County find out that that valuable public resources will be used prosecuting teens for something which is hardly threatening the public.

    John Peck, District Attorney [westmoreland.pa.us]
    Phone: 724.830.3949
    da@co.westmoreland.pa.us

  • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @02:37PM (#26532435)

    "It is illegal to be in possession of child pornography, regardless of knowledge of possession or intent. That's the law."

    http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00002252----000-.html [cornell.edu]

    Actually *unless* they knew it had objectionable material on it when the took the phone they are in complete compliance with USC 18-110-2252-a-2 which deals with possession

    Any person who-- knowingly receives, or distributes, any visual depiction that has been mailed, or has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce, or which contains materials which have been mailed or so shipped or transported, by any means including by computer, or knowingly reproduces any visual depiction for distribution in interstate or foreign commerce or through the mails, if--

    Also if you look at section C of that law you can see what I was getting to earlier

    Affirmative Defense.-- It shall be an affirmative defense to a charge of violating paragraph (4) of subsection (a) that the defendant--
    (1) possessed less than three matters containing any visual depiction proscribed by that paragraph; and
    (2) promptly and in good faith, and without retaining or allowing any person, other than a law enforcement agency, to access any visual depiction or copy thereof--
    (A) took reasonable steps to destroy each such visual depiction; or
    (B) reported the matter to a law enforcement agency and afforded that agency access to each such visual depiction.

    ** THATS ** the law..

    "If I secretly copy some to your computer and then anonymously turn you in, you can be arrested and go to jail; your life forever destroyed."

    Not if I could show I did not put it there and did not distribute. If these teachers had seen the images and did *not* report it, then they would have committed a crime.

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Haganah (991196) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @02:58PM (#26533027) Homepage
    Actually, according to Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan of Saudi Arabia, two eyes is too immodest. Therefore, women should cover up all but one eye [bbc.co.uk].
  • by scarboni888 (1122993) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @03:08PM (#26533319)

    As the wiki on Hijab http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hijab [wikipedia.org] appears to state, this is more of a cultural phenomenon than a religious one.

    There are plenty of Muslim countries where women aren't wearing it, some where it's full & covers the face, & yet others, like indonesia, where the face does not have to be covered.

  • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:15PM (#26535025)
    I've actually had a "science" teacher and the school and district administration *admit* that I correctly answered a question on a quiz, and still maintain the teacher's "prerogative" to mark it incorrect. That's not just just stupid, it's 14th-amendment-violating stupid.

    I didn't even want the point, I just wanted to correct the misinformation being spread by the "science" teacher. Teaching things as "science" that are verifiably false is just not good for society.
  • by Aris Katsaris (939578) <katsaris@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:19PM (#26535111) Homepage

    If you want to be Lawful Good, then the first thing you need do is attempt to make sure that the Laws in question are indeed Good.

    "Contempt for rules" ends up self-learned, I assure you, when the rules are not just stupid but downright evil. It's tyranny that ends up the best teacher of anarchy.

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:2, Informative)

    by daedae (1089329) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:34PM (#26535431)

    That's kind of why it says in TFA (which I'm "sure" you read) that it's overkill. This was on CNN a few days ago and the commentary went something like "this is obviously somewhat heavy-handed, and not really what the law is about, but if you want to punish people to try to put a stop to the activity you use the tools you have." The interesting difference between the MSNBC article and the CNN commentary though is the MSNBC article indicates the involved teens will have to register as sex offenders (another law which is somewhat abused), while the CNN commentary said since they're minors it wouldn't have any long-term negative repercussions.

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Miseph (979059) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @04:43PM (#26535681) Journal

    I've actually seen a story about a guy who's on the sex offender registry in Texas because when he was 18 he and his girlfriend, who was 16 (can't remember the exact age, and it doesn't much matter) at the time were a long term relationship and having sex. She got into a fight with her mother, who in a moment of stupidity called the cops and reported that he was committing statutory rape... not to cause trouble for him, but to "punish" her daughter for something totally unrelated. the DA wouldn't drop the charges, even after everyone involved expressed that there was nothing actually wrong and that pursuing such criminal charges would just ruin his life for no reason. So now he's married to his "victim", with the full blessings of her parents, hasn't committed any crimes of any nature, but still has to deal with being registered sex offender for the rest of his life.

    Kind of makes you wonder how these people sleep at night, doesn't it?

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:5, Informative)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @06:00PM (#26537299) Homepage Journal
    It's even worse than this. The subjects don't even have to be under age. They just have to look underage (whatever that means).
    It's even worse than this. The subjects don't even have to exist. Drawings of human beings, whether based on an existing person or not, who appear to be under the age of 18 can also be considered child pornography.
  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Fjandr (66656) on Tuesday January 20, 2009 @06:37PM (#26537853) Homepage Journal

    I wish it caused people like that to lose sleep at night. The really sick thing is that it is unlikely that it causes the people who push these cases to lose any sleep.

    Guess they didn't like my submission of this story, so here's the original news story [kdka.com] and one from Faux News [foxnews.com].
    Similar incidents in Ohio [cincinnati.com] and Indiana [journalgazette.net].

  • Re:Not good enough. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Random Destruction (866027) on Wednesday January 21, 2009 @01:39AM (#26542381)
    My guess is it was a Half Baked reference

    Brian: Get some sour cream and onion chips with some dip, man, some beef jerky, some peanut butter. Get some HÃagen-Dazs ice cream bars, a whole lot, make sure chocolate, gotta have chocolate, man. Some popcorn, red popcorn, graham crackers, graham crackers with marshmallows, the little marshmallows and little chocolate bars and we can make s'mores, man. Also, celery, grape jelly, Cap'n Crunch with the little Crunch berries, pizzas. We need two big pizzas, man, everything on 'em, with water, whole lotta water, and Funyons.

    Kenny: That's it?

    Thurgood Jenkins: Yeah, get me a box of condoms, and, what was that thing we used to eat back in the day? What was it... oh yeah, pussy.

    Kenny: You got it.

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