Police Chief Unable To Simply Do Nothing Over Reported Teen Sexting, Brings Child Porn Charges Against Four Minors

Good, old-fashioned “sexting” has netted more teens some child pornography charges. Despite the teens involved claiming the photographed behavior was consensual, Joliet’s (IL) police chief still believes the only way to address a situation he and the laws he enforces aren’t built to handle, is to handle it as poorly as possible. (via Ars Technica)

Joliet Police Chief Brian Benton said posting the video online made already risky behavior criminal.

“It’s a criminal offense, first of all, to post that type of material online, especially for underage,” Benton said.

For underage? Or by underage? (To use Benton’s clumsy phrasing…) Because while everything recorded involved teens between the ages of 14-16, it was also distributed by these same teens. What happened here was only technically “child porn” and it involved no exploitation.

Still, Benton seems to feel the only way to prevent teens from doing something regrettable that might affect them “for years to come” is to treat this all-too-common (and apparently very normal) situation in a way that ensures any teen involved in sexting will be saddled with criminal charges that will affect them for years to come.

“The child pornography offense that was charged is in place for a reason, because we don’t want to accept that type of behavior as a society,” Benton said. “It’s making a strong statement, and I think it’s important to do so, to send a message to others that kids shouldn’t be involved in this type of behavior, and hopefully this will serve as a deterrent.”

No, it’s in place to prevent the nonconsensual sexual exploitation of children. It is not in place to charge teens for consensual, normal behavior.

But, whatever. Now these teens who participated in activity that isn’t explicitly illegal have been hit with charges for something that is very definitely illegal and that will likely affect them adversely until they hit the age of 21, if not for longer. It seems that if Chief Benton can’t make the actual sexual acts illegal, he’ll do all he can to criminalize depictions of the actual events, ignoring the logical dissonance of charging children for creating child porn.

Fun fact: these charges could possibly result in the forfeiture of property owned by the teens’ parents.

In addition, any person convicted under this Section is subject to the property forfeiture provisions set forth in Article 124B of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963.

Except for the parent who turned in all the teens

(5) With respect to a property interest in existence at the time the illegal conduct giving rise to the forfeiture took place, he or she either:

(A) did not know of the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture; or

(B) upon learning of the conduct giving rise to the forfeiture, did all that reasonably could be expected under the circumstances to terminate that use of the property.

[…]

(b) For purposes of paragraph (5) of subsection (a), ways in which a person may show that he or she did all that reasonably could be expected include demonstrating that he or she, to the extent permitted by law, did either of the following:

(1) Gave timely notice to an appropriate law enforcement agency of information that led the person to know that the conduct giving rise to a forfeiture would occur or had occurred.

(2) In a timely fashion revoked or made a good faith attempt to revoke permission for those engaging in the conduct to use the property or took reasonable actions in consultation with a law enforcement agency to discourage or prevent the illegal use of the property.

If the local PD is creative enough to charge teenagers for producing and starring in their own child porn, it might be willing to seize the property “involved” in this consensual activity.

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