Judge: Faribault girl in sexting case can’t be both victim and criminal

Charges have been dropped in a southern Minnesota case where an underage teen was charged with distributing child pornography by sending a boy an explicit picture of herself.

The boy passed it around school in Faribault, so authorities prosecuted the girl.

If “Jane Doe” was found guilty of the charges filed by Rice County prosecutor John Fossum, she would have been forced to register as a predatory sex offender for the next 10 years.

The girl, 14, was charged with a felony.

Rice County District Court Judge John Cajacob has now dismissed the charges.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which took on the case, Cajacob said prosecuting the girl would produce “an absurd, unreasonable, and unjust result” and that he could not see how “subjecting [the juvenile] to registering as a sexual offender would protect her or teach her anything but that the justice system is cruel and unjust.”

The ACLU called it “unabashed victim shaming.”

The boy was also charged by authorities.

  • Brian Simon

    The boy is still being prosecuted, I presume? He shouldn’t be sharing the pics either, but 10 years as a registered sex offender is pretty harsh. At least they got it right for the girl.

  • Leroy

    There are no words for that level of gross incompetence. I’m just stunned that anyone would have thought that charging the girl would be a good idea.

  • Barton

    A friend of mine told me the following story of what happened to her daughter when she received an unsolicited “dick pic.”

    The daughter told her mom about the photo received from a boy in her class. Mom called the police to discuss what they could do. The police told her that if they filed a report the daughter may be prosecuted because she was in possession of child pornography (both kids being around 13 at the time). Mom called a lawyer to find out what to do. Lawyer told her the same thing as the cops: the daughter could be prosecuted for child pornography even though she didn’t solicit/ask for it.

    I couldn’t believe it when I heard this. And yet the moms of tweens/teens with us agreed that that is what they knew too. So, I wasn’t only disturbed by the fact that basically the girl was being sexually harassed and couldn’t do anything, but by the fact that in a group of 8 women (all but two having kids) five of them knew for certain their kids had received naked photos from fellow students. (none claimed/admitted that their kids may have sent naked photos to fellow students).

    • Mike

      There needs to be some sort of provision in the law that allows for exceptions when both of the actors are under 18. Otherwise, we’re going to keep seeing overzealous prosecutors trying out absurd legal maneuvers on kids doing silly things – with potentially long-lasting and overly punitive consequences for what amounts to the 21st century version of teenage hijinks.

      In America, we love nothing more than sex panic. It gives free rein to our inner Arthur Dimmesdales, which are never far from the surface in this country, given our Puritan heritage.

      • Barton

        I don’t view this as teenage hijinks: it is either peer pressure or harassment (either pressed into sending something or sending something without consent). But I agree with the rest.

        • Mike

          I wouldn’t automatically think that one teenager receiving a sexually explicit pic (even unsolicited) from another counts as sexual harassment. It depends on various factors, such as their relative ages and the nature of their relationship. Besides, if future contact is truly unwanted, there’s a technical solution: block the number. If there’s a pattern of harassment or intimidation, that’s a different story.

          It’s just a bad idea to get law enforcement involved in most of these incidents. Our legal system is designed to be as punitive as possible. I guess that’s a reflection of us as a society.

      • Kassie

        Or some sort of provision that allows someone receiving unintended child porn from being prosecuted, even if the person is over 18. For instance, I could see a child sending explicit photos to a teacher or coach for the purpose of getting them in trouble for possessing child pornography if what is said above is truly the case.

    • Sue

      What you should be in disbelief over is the fact that a mother in a situation like that called the police instead of handling it herself – like sane people used to do.

      • Jessica Z

        Used to do when?? I was 13 in the late 90s, and if I had told my parents someone had texted me a d*ck pic, they would have been like “What’s that? What’s texting? Are cell phones a real thing? Is that like the internet?” They would not have handled it themselves, because it couldn’t have happened then. Technology is adding a new dimension to sexual harassment and the sexual exploitation of children which is why this issue is fraught and why it is so important that we get it right. Shaming a mother for going to the police seems unhelpful.

        • Sue

          What if you had texted, in the late 90s or in 2018 a boob picture? Like this girl did. You seem to argue that that activity mandates police involvement.

          Yet the girl sees her charges dropped.

          And calling out someone for incompetence is hardly shaming.

          • I can assure you as a father of a 16 year old girl that my first impulse would not be to go to the police and would definitely be to “handle it” myself. I’m sure though, that everyone involved would be better off in the end if I did not “handle it” myself.

          • Sue

            I may be misunderstanding you but by “handling it”, as a father, you mean you would not go to the police but beat the snot out of someone?

            Who would that be, Mr. Tough Guy? Your 16 year old daughter who texted a boob photo? Or the boy to whom she sent it?

            Please clarify your felonious intentions.

          • Yes, my first inclination would be physical violence. Since I am above acting on my first instincts, I would instead go to the authorities.
            You know, there are still a few tough guys in the world. If you aren’t letting your boys know that if they do this, they might have an older brother or father “beat the snot out” of them. You are doing them an extreme disservice.

  • Sue

    What this girl did is a text book case of production and distribution of child pornography. What this boy did is a text book case of receipt and distribution of child pornography.

    Why does she get off and the boy does not? This mother of several boys would like to know.

    • Brian Simon

      I hope that you’re teaching your boys not to betray the trust of someone by forwarding intimate pictures shared with them. I hope you’re teaching your boys that sending dick pics is not appropriate behavior for kids. Have you heard of revenge porn? Two adults make an intimate video of themselves, then after breaking up, one (usually the male) publicly posts the video of the other. Surely you can see there’s an enormous difference between choosing to participate in making the video vs. sharing it with the world.

      • Sue

        Why should not the parents of girls teach their precious princesses not to produce and distribute child pornography? The boy was in trouble the second he received the digital file. Sharing without permission is immaterial here. Why do the girls get off scot-free?

        Surely you can see that, in the production of child pornography, consent is not a factor. At least not according to all state’s criminal codes.

        • king harvest

          What are the exact charges the boy is facing? Without knowing that, you cannot say for sure that the charges are unwarranted.

          • Sue

            I beg to differ. Again, she PRODUCED and DISTRIBUTED child pornography. He RECEIVED and DISTRIBUTED child pornography. Without her initial crime, his is impossible.

          • The answer to your question is in the brief. It was sent as a Snapchat, meaning that it would essentially self destruct unless archived by the receiver as a screenshot. This means that the girl produced and distributed that photo to one person and believed that the photo would be destroyed after that one viewing. This is obviously a lesser crime than preserving a photo that would have been destroyed and then distributing to multiple people without the consent of the girl that believed the photo was destroyed. The photo only continued to exist due to the actions of the boy involved. I think some kind of punishment for the girl is warranted, with consideration for the damage done by the boys act. The boy’s punishment however, should be greater for each individual he distributed the picture to (and each subsequent distribution) without any considerations or leniency since he was not harmed by the distribution.

          • Sue

            “The photo only continued to exist due to the actions of the boy involved.”

            The photo only existed in the first place due to the actions of the girl involved. If anyone is being prosecuted and should be required to register as a child sex offender (minors / children have to do so all the time) there is NO reason the girl’s actions should be excused.

          • Laurie K.

            I am really curious, did you read the brief at all? Maybe that would answer your questions and explain why the judge found that prosecuting the girl would lead to “an absurd, unreasonable, and unjust result”.

          • First:
            The use of snapchat to send the photo means that the girl destroyed the photo when she sent it. That is the whole purpose of snapchat. She created it and destroyed it. The boy copied it in the small window before that destruction took place and then sent it to his friends, if you can’t understand why that difference matters you should not have reproduced.

            Second:
            I didn’t say excused, I said “I think some kind of punishment for the girl is warranted, with consideration for the damage done.” If you can show me some way in which this behavior harmed the boy pre-prosecution, I would be happy that the boy receive the same consideration. Aside from the fact that your logic sounds like it came from the back of a mini-van (“but Suzy did it first!”), the two acts are fundamentally different in scope. The punishment for showing one person a picture of yourself should not be the same as showing dozens of people a picture of someone else without their knowledge. That’s like saying stealing a candy bar should have the same punishment as stealing a car. Are they both stealing? Yes. Do they do the same amount of damage to the rightful owner? No.

          • king harvest

            Again, is the boy actually being charged for receiving the picture or for sharing it with others? Did the boy request the picture?
            If he had just let the picture delete no charges would have been filed.

  • Elsa Kristian

    I get harassed every single day in school for pictures and when I refuse i get called all kinds of names by both attention seeking girls that give out nudes and jerk guys that are always demanding them. Isn’t that sexual harassment? The teachers know, the principal knows but nobody does anything about it. It’s not going to stop because the attention seeking girls that send out nudes and the persistant guys that always ask for nudes know there are no consequences. Nobody does anything and idiots say it’s “normal teen sexuality” and crap like that. Since when is getting harassed everyday for porn “normal”. It amazes me adults here think letting kids send out porn is a good idea. Do they really think the nudes stay in school and adults don’t get them or that some guys don’t sell them? Maybe some of the adults here hope they get some of the pics. I thought we were going to school for an education, not to be porn stars.

  • KTFoley

    Cannot be both victim and criminal?

    Reasons I’m not a lawyer, #43791: likely would’ve submitted an 11-page amicus curiae brief to say, “Well, duh.”