Identity

14-Year-Old Girl in 'Racy' Photos Threatened with Child Porn Charges

After two teenage boys were caught printing photos of a 14-year-old girl, a county attorney threatened to sue the girl for child pornography. Her parents allege anti-child pornography laws are intended to protect children, not prosecute them.

by Kimberly Lawson
Sep 30 2016, 4:55pm

Photo by Courtney Rust via Stocksy

The parents of a 14-year-old girl are suing an Iowa county attorney for threatening to brand her a sex offender for life after she sent photos of herself to a friend. The photos allegedly did not reveal any nudity. According to the lawsuit filed Sept. 28 in federal court, unless the girl agrees to attend a class on the dangers of sexting, discuss why her conduct was wrong, and sign a statement admitting so, Marion County attorney Ed Bull intends to charge her with sexual exploitation of a minor and/or child pornography.

The plaintiffs, named John Doe and Jane Doe, seek an injunction against Bull for pursuing criminal charges on the basis that doing so would violate their daughter's access to free speech and interferes with their right to raise her as they see fit. They do not believe she participated in any criminal activity.

The Snapchat photos in question, the Does state, are "less 'racy' than photographs they see in fashion magazines and on television every day." One reportedly shows their daughter, named Nancy Doe in the suit, wearing boy shorts and topless, her breasts covered by her hair. The second photo depicts her in the same boy shorts, but wearing a sports bra.

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The images were discovered in March when two teenage boys were caught using Knoxville High School equipment to print off a slew of semi-nude and nude images of both male and female students that were being passed around.

According to the complaint, Bull shortly afterward called a meeting to address the sexting scandal; about 30 students and parents attended. He offered the option of a pretrial diversion program—which included community service, a written admission of their misconduct, giving up their laptops and cell phones for an unspecified amount of time, and "a reeducation class" on the consequences of sexting—as a way to avoid criminal charges.

The Doe family was not at that meeting. They did, however, hear later that "Bull engaged in 'slut shaming' by informing the female students present that young ladies did not send such explicit photos to boys," according to the suit.

According to Iowa Code Section 728.12, the suit reports, sexual exploitation of a minor involves a sex act, fondling of genitalia, or nudity—defined as "showing of any part of the human genitals or pubic area or buttocks, or any part of the nipple of the breast of a female." Because Nancy's portrayal in the controversial images do not meet these statutes, the plaintiffs believe she is being threatened with prosecution "simply for appearing in the images."

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Those photos are protected under the First Amendment, the complaint states. But because of Bull's threats of criminal charges, the Does say they hesitate to even take photos of their daughter in a two-piece swimsuit, for fear the county attorney will deem them "inappropriate."

"Moreover," the suit argues, "Bull's decision to prosecute the subject of the photographs, Nancy Doe herself, is unprecedented and stands anti-child-pornography laws on their head. Anti-child-pornography laws are intended to protect the children shown in the photos and videos ... The minor in the photos, Nancy Doe, is, if anything, the victim in this case. Someone else—not her—disseminated the photos without her permission to a large group of people."