Government, Govern Thyself

 

shutterstock_214071850The purpose of anti-child pornography laws is to protect innocents from exploitation and humiliation, particularly by adults, but also by their peers. Ironically, these very laws — not the actions of the teens involved — are directly to blame for precisely that outcome in a case out of Cumberland County, North Carolina.

Via Reason — though I also recommend this article from the Fayetteville Observer, which has a number of important updates — two North Carolina high school students were charges with multiple felonies last month for exchanging and storing nude photographs of themselves and each other on their phones. The girl subsequently pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and is on probation, but the boy is fighting the charges and potentially faces 10 years in prison and registry as sex offender.

A few details make the case particularly noteworthy and offensive:

  • There is no indication that the photographs were disseminated beyond the couple until the male student’s phone was seized as part of a separate investigation involving misdemeanor property damage.
  • The two were charged with “exploitation of a minor,” despite each being a minor at the time they made the photographs. More bizarrely yet, most of the charges against the teens were for having pictures of themselves on their own phones; i.e., each was charged for photographing and/or storing images of his or her own nether regions.
  • The laws they are accused of violating are not merely identical to those pertaining to genuine child pornographers, but are in, in fact, the very same laws that make child pornography illegal. If you don’t believe me, see § 14-190.16 through § 14-190.17A of North Carolina’s Offenses Against Public Morality and Decency.
  • The charging officer described the boy as cooperative and recommended he be released to his family (I’ve yet to figure out why this recommendation was subsequently ignored).

If Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina legislature want to protect minors from sexual exploitation, they could do worse than amending such dangerous and foolish laws.

There are 67 comments.

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  1. Member

    Well it is kind of complicated that it was personal and they were both under age. I don’t think child pornography actually fits. Still I’m not all that sympathetic. What the hell were they doing taking nude pictures of themselves? They may not have deseminated the pictures yet, but they may have been showing them around, and these things get out once their on a device. Police may know more than what’s in the article. What has this culture come down to when kids don’t have any sense of shame? If they don’t have shame at that age, what are they going to be like as adults?

    • #1
    • September 2, 2015 at 9:47 am
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  2. Inactive

    This is a total miscarriage of justice. What good will come of sending this boy to jail for 10 years? What good will come of this girl being charged with a misdemeanor?

    • #2
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:01 am
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  3. Inactive

    Sounds like the citizens should change this law and not punish what is patently silly behavior. But, maybe not on purpose, you have fallen into the trap of describing “government” as some kind of sentient entity. It can’t govern itself, so the appeal in your headline could simply highlight that this is another example of unintended consequences or possibly prosecutorial overreach. That’s a quibble, though.

    This type of story makes me feel so sorry for the innocent and of course slightly stupid teenagers caught in progressive snares. The arrogance of those persecuting these people through misdirection and unequal application of our laws would likely insult those who wrote the original law. At least I hope so.

    The reason this story resonated with me in particular this morning is the case of the county clerk, whose career and personal life are now being trashed on the altar of the fascist element of the LGBT crowd, as enabled by the Supreme Court this summer. Justice Thomas warned of this very effect in his well-crafted dissent. So, I hope that at least some of those responsible for creating the laws allowing this type of religious persecution, and the elevation of negative behavior to a protected “right”, regret their actions.

    Time is short. The fight to redirect our country’s moral stature is imperative.

    • #3
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:07 am
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  4. Inactive

    Manny:Well it is kind of complicated that it was personal and they were both under age. I don’t think child pornography actually fits. Still I’m not all that sympathetic. What the hell were they doing taking nude pictures of themselves? They may not have deseminated the pictures yet, but they may have been showing them around, and these things get out once their on a device. Police may know more than what’s in the article. What has this culture come down to when kids don’t have any sense of shame? If they don’t have shame at that age, what are they going to be like as adults?

    So, teenagers should have the wisdom of the ages? They are still-unformed humans.

    • #4
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:09 am
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  5. Member

    Tom Riehl

    Manny:Well it is kind of complicated that it was personal and they were both under age. I don’t think child pornography actually fits. Still I’m not all that sympathetic. What the hell were they doing taking nude pictures of themselves? They may not have deseminated the pictures yet, but they may have been showing them around, and these things get out once their on a device. Police may know more than what’s in the article. What has this culture come down to when kids don’t have any sense of shame? If they don’t have shame at that age, what are they going to be like as adults?

    So, teenagers should have the wisdom of the ages? They are still-unformed humans.

    Wisdom no, inhibition yes. I certainly was more inhibited about nudity at that age.

    • #5
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:16 am
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  6. Contributor

    Tom Riehl: Sounds like the citizens should change this law and not punish what is patently silly behavior. But, maybe not on purpose, you have fallen into the trap of describing “government” as some kind of sentient entity. It can’t govern itself, so the appeal in your headline could simply highlight that this is another example of unintended consequences or possibly prosecutorial overreach. That’s a quibble, though.

    We’re entirely agreed. That’s why I concluded:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: If Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina legislature want to protect minors from sexual exploitation, they could do worse than amending such dangerous and foolish laws.

    • #6
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:27 am
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  7. Member

    Manny: Still I’m not all that sympathetic.

    Does this mean that it doesn’t bother you that much that they’re being unjustly hurt? Do you somehow think they deserve what’s being done to them?

    For Pete’s sake! It bothers the Hell out of me.

    • #7
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:31 am
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  8. Inactive

    Never cooperate with police and always destroy your cell phone. There is no such thing as justice or fairness, only power.

    • #8
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:33 am
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  9. Inactive

    Manny: Still I’m not all that sympathetic.

    Children are having their lives destroyed and for what? If you can’t muster sympathy for this then I have no idea what you could muster sympathy for.

    • #9
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:36 am
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  10. Listener

    Thank God we made our video on Betamax.

    • #10
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:42 am
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  11. Coolidge

    Manny:Well it is kind of complicated that it was personal and they were both under age. I don’t think child pornography actually fits. Still I’m not all that sympathetic. What the hell were they doing taking nude pictures of themselves? They may not have deseminated the pictures yet, but they may have been showing them around, and these things get out once their on a device. Police may know more than what’s in the article. What has this culture come down to when kids don’t have any sense of shame? If they don’t have shame at that age, what are they going to be like as adults?

    Oh, come on. They are teenagers with a camera phone. They, at least the boys, are going to take pictures of their nads. Why? Because they are dopy kids having fun, getting away with stupid stuff, bored, daring, its a phone that sends pictures–how cool is that?, doing what kids do.

    If this was 40 years ago, you can not tell me that if kids had a small, portable phone, that took pictures, they wouldn’t being doing the same thing.

    • #11
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:44 am
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  12. Thatcher

    Manny’s reverence for whatever laws happen to be on the books knows no bounds. If we start questioning the morality of laws, the whole edifice might come down! Laws somehow make immoral punishment moral. If you don’t like it, your only recourse is to change the laws through the proper channels. So it is written, so it must be done.

    • #12
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:53 am
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  13. Member

    I mostly agree with the sentiments that this is not an area for law enforcement.

    My wife works at a private high school with affluent kids – all of whom have all of the latest electronic devices – and from her experience, it is patently obvious that no amount of laws will be great enough to overcome the power of teenagers’ hormones.

    Let’s face it: there’s a period between about 15 and 18 when kids have nearly all of the abilities of an adult without either the wisdom nor the legal responsibility. The law will never be able to adequately deal with this age group, and parents are often quite powerless at this phase as well. That’s why the only answer is to provide better parenting in the earlier years and hope it sticks.

    • #13
    • September 2, 2015 at 10:59 am
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  14. Member

    However, I think there is a more pertinent question on the sidelines here:

    Should the boyfriend have been punished if he uploaded the naked pictures of his girl friend onto a public site in the internet? In that case, he would indeed be publishing explicit pictures of a minor (presumably against her will) into the public domain. My tendency is to say yes.

    Which leads to the thornier question: what should happen if the girl uploaded the naked pictures of herself onto a public site in the internet?

    • #14
    • September 2, 2015 at 11:00 am
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  15. Contributor

    Mendel: Let’s face it: there’s a period between about 15 and 18 when kids have nearly all of the abilities of an adult without either the wisdom nor the legal responsibility. The law will never be able to adequately deal with this age group, and parents are often quite powerless at this phase as well. That’s why the only answer is to provide better parenting in the earlier years and hope it sticks.

    “More hormones than sense” is usually the way I put it.

    Mendel: Should the boyfriend have been punished if he uploaded the naked pictures of his girlfriend onto a public site in the internet? In that case, he would indeed be publishing explicit pictures of a minor (presumably against her will) into the public domain. My tendency is to say yes.

    If he did it without her consent, then I’d say definitely yes. If he did it with her consent… I’d probably be down with some legal repercussions, though probably not felonies.

    Mendel: Which leads to the thornier question: what should happen if the girl uploaded the naked pictures of herself onto a public site in the internet?

    Indeed, thorny. Felonies seem like overkill, but it should probably be illegal. You can easily see genuine pornographers using this to get out of charges.

    • #15
    • September 2, 2015 at 11:11 am
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  16. Contributor

    Stupid behavior is not necessarily criminal behavior–certainly not in this case, based on the facts presented. The older I get the more grateful I am that I came of age before the dawn of today’s Internet-enabled Panopticon.

    • #16
    • September 2, 2015 at 11:59 am
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  17. Listener

    JimGoneWild:

    If this was 40 years ago, you can not tell me that if kids had a small, portable phone, that took pictures, they wouldn’t being doing the same thing.

    I wasn’t kidding about Betamax.

    • #17
    • September 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm
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  18. Inactive

    Guess North Carolina law enforcement and prosecutors never played “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine” when they were kids.

    I’m as conservative, traditionalist right wing as you’re gonna get… hell, I border on being an old Tory at times these days… but I’m beginning to wonder if some of these people are human.

    • #18
    • September 2, 2015 at 12:18 pm
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  19. Member

    George Savage: The older I get the more grateful I am that I came of age before the dawn of today’s Internet-enabled Panopticon.

    Amen to that.

    • #19
    • September 2, 2015 at 12:19 pm
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  20. Member

    As others have said above, I cannot imagine that at that age I would have been willing to expose myself in that way. However, I wasn’t exposed to the constant barrage of semi-pornographic behavior that modern kids are being exposed to. One doesn’t have to seek out pornography on sleezy sites. For the last twenty or so years there has been a competition between popular female singers for who could do the most blatantly sexual display on stage.

    To the best of my recollection it began between three particular stars, Madonna, Cher, and Tina Turner. Much of their stuff seems pretty mild compared to the gyrations and nudity of Miley Cirus. However, it got raunchier and raunchier as each seemed to challenger her competitors to do more and more. Others who followed carried the tradition on with scantier costumes and more aggressive sexuality on stage.

    It is hard to imagine what motivates kids to do what these two did, but, at the same time, given the media environment in which they have grown up, it isn’t terribly shocking. Their behavior is certainly rude and stupid, but criminal? I think not.

    • #20
    • September 2, 2015 at 12:21 pm
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  21. Member

    Owen Findy

    Manny: Still I’m not all that sympathetic.

    Does this mean that it doesn’t bother you that much that they’re being unjustly hurt? Do you somehow think they deserve what’s being done to them?

    For Pete’s sake! It bothers the Hell out of me.

    I doubt very much he’s going to get ten years. A minor who commits murder doesn’t get ten years. And all I said was that I wasn’t sympatheitic. I didn’t say he deserved ten years. At most he’ll get some sort of delinquincy.

    • #21
    • September 2, 2015 at 1:15 pm
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  22. Member

    One needs only to remember that this is the same state where the Duke Lacrosse case was prosecuted.

    • #22
    • September 2, 2015 at 1:25 pm
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  23. Coolidge

    Having laws about this stuff is practically daring teenage boys to do whatever it is you don’t want them to do. There should be a law against that.

    • #23
    • September 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm
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  24. Inactive

    Manny:

    :Well it is kind of complicated that it was personal and they were both under age. I don’t think child pornography actually fits. Still I’m not all that sympathetic. What the hell were they doing taking nude pictures of themselves? They may not have deseminated the pictures yet, but they may have been showing them around, and these things get out once their on a device. Police may know more than what’s in the article. What has this culture come down to when kids don’t have any sense of shame? If they don’t have shame at that age, what are they going to be like as adults?

    So, teenagers should have the wisdom of the ages? They are still-unformed humans.

    Wisdom no, inhibition yes. I certainly was more inhibited about nudity at that age.

    Agreed!

    • #24
    • September 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm
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  25. Contributor

    Manny: I doubt very much he’s going to get ten years. A minor who commits murder doesn’t get ten years. And all I said was that I wasn’t sympatheitic. I didn’t say he deserved ten years. At most he’ll get some sort of delinquincy.

    Do you think it’s just that he be threatened with 10 years? And registry as a sex offender?

    • #25
    • September 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm
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  26. Member

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Manny: I doubt very much he’s going to get ten years. A minor who commits murder doesn’t get ten years. And all I said was that I wasn’t sympatheitic. I didn’t say he deserved ten years. At most he’ll get some sort of delinquincy.

    Do you think it’s just that he be threatened with 10 years? And registry as a sex offender?

    I don’t know the law, and the ramifications. Obviously the law was written for a less trivial offense, but they did sex text or whatever it’s called, did they not, and is that a violation of the law, is it not? They violated the law. Hopefully the judge will have freedom to apply a reasonable punishment for their age.

    But why is it that Reason magazine constantly finds such stories that undermine law and order? Is it that Libertarians are soft on crime? Is it they dislike the judicial system? Seems very much like Liberalism.

    And this happens to be a two-fer in that it’s a sexual transgression. Liberalism has nicely undermined the culture with liberalizing all sexual activity, as if virtue (as Rachel Lu calls it) is something that inhibits individual freedom. Virtue is upheld in a culture by clear lines of right and wrong, and the law is an instrument to uphold the culture. Sexting pictures eventually gets out into the public domain. It should be a crime.

    • #26
    • September 2, 2015 at 6:07 pm
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  27. Thatcher

    Manny: I don’t know the law, and the ramifications. Obviously the law was written for a less trivial offense, but they did sex text or whatever it’s called, did they not, and is that a violation of the law, is it not? They violated the law. Hopefully the judge will have freedom to apply a reasonable punishment for their age.

    Rule of law is often immensely evil.

    • #27
    • September 2, 2015 at 6:41 pm
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  28. Contributor

    Manny:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Do you think it’s just that he be threatened with 10 years? And registry as a sex offender?

    I don’t know the law, and the ramifications. Obviously the law was written for a less trivial offense, but they did sex text or whatever it’s called, did they not, and is that a violation of the law, is it not?

    Yes, it is, and I think that laws should be enforced. That’s also why I think it’s so important to get the laws and their punishments correct. Obviously, no law can foresee every conceivable circumstance, but these stories have been semi-regular fixtures of the news for the past years and the laws in question are immanently reformable.

    As Mendel and I were discussing earlier, one possibility migt be to change the law to charge minors in this situation with misdemeanors. Or, maybe, we could just leave it to their parents to discipline them.

    But why is it that Reason magazine constantly finds such stories that undermine law and order? Is it that Libertarians are soft on crime? Is it they dislike the judicial system? Seems very much like Liberalism.

    Manny, why is suggesting that a law’s punishment is excessive and potentially doing more harm than good synonymous with “undermining law and order”? Indeed, I’d argue that few things are more injurious to public order than a heavy reliance on prosecutorial/judicial discretion such as you argued for above, or threatening two young people with a lifetime in the penal system for taking pictures of their own genitals. Laws work best when the punishments are clearly defined, contingent on as few circumstances as possible, and proportionate to the crime.

    • #28
    • September 2, 2015 at 6:46 pm
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  29. Coolidge

    I deal with this seemingly on a daily basis. Picture phones are the scourge of modern high schools. There do need to be punishments, and punishments that are harsh. However, ten years? Register as a sex offender? That’s a sentence of ruination. Almost no young man can recover from that and live a productive life.

    As has been said, a balance needs to be struck. Much like minor drug offences, we need to find the correct level of punishment and be reminded that these punishments are meant to be instructive – not destructive.

    • #29
    • September 2, 2015 at 6:58 pm
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  30. Member

    Thanks for the warning Tom. I just called my son upstairs and told him the cautionary tale. He is the same age as the accused.

    • #30
    • September 2, 2015 at 7:33 pm
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