You Can Have Sex With Them; Just Don't Photograph Them

A former cop's 15-year prison sentence illustrates the absurdity of federal child porn laws.


In the spring and summer of 2006, Eric Rinehart, at the time a 34-year-old police officer in the small town of Middletown, Indiana, began consensual sexual relationships with two young women, ages 16 and 17. One of the women had contacted Rinehart through his MySpace page. He had known the other one, the daughter of a man who was involved in training police officers, for most of her life. Rinehart was going through a divorce at the time. The relationships came to the attention of local authorities, and then federal authorities, when one of the girls mentioned it to a guidance counselor.

Whatever you might think of Rinehart's judgment or ethics, his relationships with the girls weren't illegal. The age of consent in Indiana is 16. That is also the age of consent in federal territories. Rinehart got into legal trouble because one of the girls mentioned to him that she had posed for sexually provocative photos for a previous boyfriend and offered to do the same for Rinehart. Rinehart lent her his camera, which she returned with the promised photos. Rinehart and both girls then took additional photos and at least one video, which he downloaded to his computer.

In 2007 Rinehart was convicted on two federal charges of producing child pornography. U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton, who now serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, reluctantly sentenced Rinehart to 15 years in prison. Thanks to mandatory minimum sentences, Hamilton wrote, his hands were tied. There is no parole in the federal prison system. So barring an unlikely grant of clemency from the president, Rinehart, who is serving his time at a medium-security prison in Pennsylvania, will have to complete at least 85 percent of his term (assuming time off for good behavior), or nearly 13 years.

Hamilton was not permitted to consider any mitigating factors in sentencing Rinehart. It did not matter that Rinehart's sexual relationships with the two girls were legal. Nor did it matter that the photos for which he was convicted never went beyond his computer. Rinehart had no prior criminal history, and there was no evidence he had ever possessed or searched for child pornography on his computer. There was also no evidence that he abused his position as a police officer to lure the two women into sex. His crime was producing for his own use explicit images of two physically mature women with whom he was legally having sex. (Both women also could have legally married Rinehart without their parents' consent, although it's unclear whether federal law would have permitted a prosecution of Rinehart for photographing his own wife.)

"You can certainly conceive of acts of producing actual child pornography, the kind that does real harm to children, for which a 15-year sentence would be appropriate," says Mary Price, general counsel for the criminal justice reform group Families Against Mandatory Minimums. "But this is a single-factor trigger, so it gets applied in cases like this one, where the sentence really doesn't fit the culpability."

In his sentencing statement, Hamilton urges executive clemency for Rinehart. He points out that under federal law Rinehart received the same sentence someone convicted of hijacking an airplane or second-degree murder would receive. For a bank robber to get Rinehart's sentence, Hamilton writes, "he would need to fire a gun, inflict serious bodily injury on a victim, physically restrain another victim, and get away with the stunning total of $2.5 million." (You might also compare Rinehart's punishment to the treatment given former Elkhart, Indiana, police officer William Lee. Lee, who had a history of "inappropriately touching" women while on the job, was recently fired for using the threat of an arrest warrant to coerce a woman into having sex with him. He was never criminally charged.)

Hamilton is not the first federal judge to express frustration over federal child porn sentencing laws. In May 2010, The New York Times profiled U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, who after 43 years on the bench has essentially gone rogue, twice throwing out convictions of a man convicted of receiving child pornography because of the five-year mandatory minimum sentence attached to the offense. Weinstein has also indicated that in future child porn cases he will disregard the federal rules of criminal procedure and inform his juries of the sentences defendants will get if convicted.

Rinehart was convicted of producing child pornography. But in cases where a suspect is charged with receiving child pornography, prosecutors need not even show intent. The mere presence of the images on the defendant's computer is enough to win a conviction. "Each image can be a separate count, so these sentences can add up pretty quickly," Price says. "And with a video, each frame can count as a separate image. So if you accidentally or unknowingly download a video that's later discovered on your computer, you could be looking at a really long sentence."

In a 2010 survey (PDF) by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, 71 percent of the 585 federal judges who responded thought the five-year mandatory minimum for receiving child pornography was too harsh. Just 2 percent thought it was too lenient. Only the mandatory minimum for crack cocaine, which has since been reduced, met with wider disapproval.

"When judges don't abide by sentencing guidelines, the logical conclusion would be that the guidelines are flawed, that they should be revised to better reflect culpability," Price says. "Instead, the reaction from Congress is too often to make the guidelines mandatory, or to make the sentences even harsher."

It could actually have been worse for Rinehart. Under federal law, he could have faced up to 25 years in prison. In exchange for a guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to seek only the minimum sentence. Unfortunately for Rinehart, that plea agreement also prevents him from challenging his conviction or sentence. His only hope for early release is executive clemency. Given the clemency records of the last two administrations, that does not seem likely.

Rinehart's case also illustrates the advantages of federalism. Traditionally, criminal law has been left to the states. Age of consent in particular is an issue that is best decided at the state or local level, where lawmakers can set boundaries that reflect local values. The 1984 federal law that Rinehart was charged with breaking, which raised the federal age of consent for explicit images from 16 to 18, was passed under the authority of the Commerce Clause. According to the prevailing interpretation of the clause, the federal government has a legitimate interest in regulating the interstate sale and distribution of child pornography (by prohibiting it) to prevent the exploitation of children.

But the women Rinehart photographed were not children. Under Indiana (and federal) law, they were adults. Furthermore, Rinehart not only was not a producer of actual child pornography; he was not even a consumer. His decision to photograph and upload to his computer photos and video of the two women had no effect whatsoever on the interstate market for child pornography.

You could argue that it makes sense to have a higher age of consent for sexually explicit photos than for sexual activity because photos can be preserved and distributed. That means one bad decision can cause lasting harm, something a 16- or 17-year-old disoriented by love or passion may not be mature enough to consider.

But as Hamilton points out in his sentencing statement, there is no indication that Congress had this rationale in mind when it raised the age of consent in 1984. Instead the congressional record indicates the reason for the change was that prosecutors usually are not able to track down the women depicted in explicit photos to verify their ages. With the cutoff at 16, prosecutors were having problems winning convictions if the girls depicted in the images showed any signs of puberty. Raising the age to 18, a House committee reported, "would facilitate the prosecution of child pornography cases and raise the effective age of protection of children from these practices probably not to 18 years of age, but perhaps to 16."

In Rinehart's case, however, there is no question about the age or identity of the "victims." So why did Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven DeBrota—who has won awards for his efforts to break up actual child pornography rings—decide to turn Rinehart's questionable judgment into a federal felony?

"This seemed like it was all going to be sorted out locally," says Stacy Rinehart, Eric Rinehart's sister. "They had a deal worked out where they were going to charge Eric for some sort of misconduct, and he'd do time in a local jail away from other inmates. Police officers don't tend to do very well in prison. But then the FBI got involved. And no one really knows why. I can only guess it was because Eric was a police officer when all this happened, and maybe they thought that made what he did worse. But he had a good record, and they never put on any evidence that he abused his position."

DeBrota didn't return my call requesting comment. But the fact that a federal prosecutor would pursue a case like this one demonstrates the problem of taking sentencing discretion away from judges. It is true that, technically, Rinehart violated federal law. But no reasonable person would call him a child pornographer, and it seems unlikely that Congress was thinking of people like him when they raised the federal age of consent for sexually explicit images. Putting him away for 15 years hardly feels like justice.

Radley Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine.

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  1. is what you are feeling right now.

    1. What’s the German word for “I wish I had been on the jury so I could’ve seen the photos and video all under the guise of performing my civic duties and then, after pretending not to enjoy them, hypocritically send his ass to jail” I know the Germans have a word for that.

      1. they have a word for it, but it only applies if the pictures involve schiesse.

      2. Unlikely – Germany’s court system does not have juries.

        1. Scheissenfreude, I think.

  2. Is it just my confirmation bias, or are there a lot of stories that come out about cops having sex with the barely legal?

    My hometown had two of them went I was in high school. One, the 50ish cop married the girl the day after she graduated high school. To do otherwise would have been unseemly, I guess.

    Age of consent, blah, blah. SLD.

    1. The saying goes “If there’s grass on the field play ball, but don’t tell anybody you’re playing ball until the field gets her diploma then if people speculate that you’ve been playing ball this whole time tell em to ‘prove it BITCHES'”

      And another saying that applies here “cops are sleazy pieces of shit”

      1. Who said that saying applies here? Didn’t you ever notice that young ladies are especially attracted to cops?

        What’s sleazy about a good time with a coupl’a chicks who happen to be nuts about you?

        1. “What’s sleazy about a good time with a coupl’a chicks who happen to be nuts about you?”

          Boy Howdy.

    2. It’s not just you. When i was in high school, I went on a class ski trip. I rode up the lift with a guy who kept making comments about my female classmates on the mountain. “Who’s the blond with the tight ass?” kind of thing.

      I asked what kind of job allowed him to ski in the middle of the day. He was a cop, who was on administrative leave pending an investigation (about something non-sexual, although I forget what it was now).

      He’s also the person who introduced me to the aphorism “if there’s no grass on the field, turn ’em over and play in the mud!”

      1. wow, did not even see Fiscal Meth’s post before telling tha story!

      2. Wow! That’s twisted

      3. I’ve heard tell that if they’re old enough to crawl, they’re in the right position…and yes, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth typing that.

        1. Twas me, ma’am.

  3. 16 and 17 will get you 15…
    Who would have thought Indiana was the Kentucky of the Midwest (isn’t the age of consent in Kentucky 12???)

    1. 16, with a 14 if >5 exception.

      1. I believe you are wrong on the exception. I think its straight 16.

        1. It was Wikipedia again. I tried to find the statute, but I kept getting cases back.

          1. Ah, here it is. I don’t see that we have a Romeo and Juliet law.


            1. You know what? “Ignorance of the law is no excuse” is utter bullshit when a fully trained reference librarian can’t figure out if there is an “close in age exception” in Kentucky law in 10 minutes.

              1. With details below, its a misdemeanor if close in age.

              2. It’s been BS since the number of laws passed 60 total for your local area…and also since lawyers got to write them.

            2. see my connect below, KY is contradictory at best.

              1. connect? that is comment.

      2. Okay, just looked thru the actual KY laws, and there are some weird age gaps, contradicting each other:

        1. KRS 510.020 says anyone under 16 cannot grant consent.

        2. KRS 510.040 defines 1st degree rape as sex with someone under age 12.

        3. KRS 510.050 defines 2nd degree rape as someone 18 or older having sex with someone under 14.

        4. KRS 510.060 defines 3rd degree rape as someone 21 or older having sex with someone under 16.

        This sort of fits with what you said, but the definition of consent makes it weird. So, if a 20 year old has sex with a 15 year old, it isnt rape, but the 15 year old didnt consent. Huh.

        Personally anyone under 25 seems creepy young.

        1. More details:

          KRS 510.120 says if a 18-20 year old has “sexual contact” with someone under 16, that is Sexual Abuse in the 2nd degree.

          Which is a misdemeanor.

          KRS 510.130 make it 3rd degree sexual abuse if the actor is under 18.

          Gaps closed.

        2. I think that the age exceptions are assuming that consent is given.

          Basically under 12, no consent is possible, 14.01 year-olds can consent but only to sex with 12.01-17.99 year-olds, and 16.01 can consent to 12.01-20.99 sex.

          12 year-olds plus one day can consent to sex with a 18-year-old minus one day? Squicky.

          1. See my post just above yours. That would be sexual abouse, but not rape.

            1. So, we don’t have a Romeo and Juliet law? You have to both be 18 to legally have sex?

              I wonder what the laws where in 1987-1991? Under the current statutes, I committed a few hundred crimes.

              1. 16. If both are 16, everything is good to go.

              2. Yeah, there was a lot of “3rd degree sexual abuse” going on in my HS (83-87).

                1. That is a Clas B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.

          2. So, from too much research in the creepy sections of KY law, 16 is good to go for everyone, under 16 and the penalty varies with their age and your age.

            1. Thanks, that shit is confusing. I thought KRS 510.130 said something different.

            2. ROBC, aren’t you part of the PLA?

  4. State laws
    Each US state has its own age of consent. Currently state laws set the age of consent at 16, 17 or 18. The most common age is 16.

    age of consent 16: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia

    age of consent 17: Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas

    age of consent 18: Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, North Dakota, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

    The Wiki Behind The Curtain

    1. Not so. A while back most of those states amended their statute to 18 due to a case of federal blackmail (change state law or we don’t return some of the money we confiscated from your citizens). I don’t know why it was not publicized, but 17 is illegal in most states.
      You really have to dig in to find it.

      1. How dare you suggest something on Wikipedia could be wrong! HOW DARE YOU!

        1. What can I say? I’m white and nerdy.

          1. What was the youngest age of consent in the US ever?

            1. 10, for a whole lot of states… although Alaska and Hawaii had no floor at all until after 1930.


          2. it’s not your fault. and remember: the geek shall inherit the earth (or whatever’s left of it)

        2. As of 2008 Vermont’s was still 16. It may have changed since then, I haven’t had reason to check.

      2. A while back most of those states amended their statute to 18

        Well, it depends on what you’re actually referring to. There are minimum ages set by state law for various purposes. E.g., minimum age to get married without parental consent, minimum age to have sex without committing statutory rape, minimum age to have an abortion without parental notification, etc., yadda yadda.

        I’d be interested in knowing what federal funding you’re referring to and what the states actually had to do in terms of changing whatever minimum age it was.

        1. I don’t remember the specifics. It was ten years or so ago. The situation was that some girl lied to me about her age. We didn’t do anything, but almost did. I thought the age was 16 but someone insisted it was 18 because the feds mandated it (mandate means do this or we don’t give you money, right?). It took days of sifting through the state register (I’m not a lawyer) to find a single sentence amendment changing the age of consent to 18. Why the statute didn’t reflect the amendment I don’t know, but again I’m not a lawyer.

          1. What state did this happen in? I can confirm that the AOC in Georgia is still 16.

            A few years ago a 16y/o girl I was seeing got mad I broke up with her and told her mom. I talked to two surprisingly nice, female detectives and gave them my statement. They told the mom that I didn’t break any law.

              1. From my reading, anything occurring between a 14 year-old and an 18-year old is ok in Maine. 15 & 19 is ok, and 16 is good across the board.

                The law in ME also specifically disallows contact between a 16-17 year-old and an employee of the school district in which the minor is enrolled.


                1. As I said I found an amendment that changed that to 18, but for some reason the “revised statute” did not reflect the change.
                  Unless there was another amendment that changed it back.

                  But I’m not a lawyer.

          2. Nope, age of consent in NY is 17, and across the border from here in PA, it’s 16.

    2. Ga was always 14 then in 1995 they raised it to 16 for the Olympics.

    3. From what I recall (I looked this up at a law library when I was 16), in my state of New Jersey 16-17 is only okay if there’s a 4 year age difference or less (so a 20-year-old can have sex with a 16-year-old but a 21-year-old can’t). Age of consent is 18 if you’re dealing with anyone 22 or older. It was around 12 years ago that I looked this up, so perhaps it’s changed.

      1. I dont think its that anymore…Jets QB Mark Sanchez is 24 and hooked up with a 17 year old in New Jersey and apparently that was legal.

  5. Yeah we should raise the age of consent!

    1. Age of consent should be tied to life expectancy. I’m thinking LE + 5yrs.

  6. A while back most of those states amended their statute to 18 due to a case of federal blackmail


    1. funny. now i have to read them all. i hate you…now i will be looking for someone on the edge of the bell curve.

  7. A Balko article that makes me feel bad for a cop? I’m so confused right now.

    1. you know, i’m resisting the urge. quite successfully, actually. all hail schadenfreude.

  8. considering what the guy looked like, I am thinking these girls were….oh, how do you say it???? Adipsosilly challenged? and pimply.

    1. Adipsosilly challenged

      Challenged? No, I think you want a word that infers the opposite.

      1. Enhanced? Advantaged?

  9. I’m suprised the article didn’t discuss the disposition of the women in the case. As a matter of law, they would each be charged as adults, do 15 years, and register as sex offenders for life.

    If you are under age and take a picture of yourself, you are a federal felon. It doesn’t matter if you are married, if you don’t distribute it to anyone ever, or even if you are taking it for medical purposes.

    Anyone who opposes this is clearly in favor of child pornography.

    1. what is frightening is that you are correct.

    2. Yes it does matter if it’s medical, as a way of excluding that from pornographic.

    3. Great point, Dan! How completely absurd!

  10. … and those who reach it deserve pensions.

    1. Well, they’ve gotta pay for the viagra somehow…

  11. The law needs to recognize that teenagers are not children, especially when it comes to sex. They’re not adults either, but it is certainly a completely different issue from child sex.

  12. What about cops with photographic memories?

  13. hey, you got karma all over my miscarriage of justice!

  14. You Can Have Sex With Them; Just Don’t Photograph Them.

    Isn’t that the exact opposite of how we view adults?

  15. Adults shouldn’t be having sex with kids, period. If you’re 18 or older you should know that anyone under 18 is off limits.

    Not so free Internet at the public library.

    1. Go hang out with Dondero and the other fake libertarians. And stop pimping your shitty blog, asshole.

      1. I’ll pimp my “shitty” blog wherever I want. OK? As long as this has a comment section, I will comment. If you don’t like it, fuck off. What? You think I need your approval.

        1. Not good at making friends, are you? I didn’t want to visit your blog before; now I *really* don’t want to visit it.

          1. Well, if you’re going to let other people influence your actions you’re not really a free man. A free man would visit my blog and judge for himself, I’m sure you’ll find plenty you agree with.

            1. If that’s the kind of amazing logic you display on your blog, count me in.

            2. No the problem is narcissistic people like you who actually think people would want to read your crappy blog. Just because you have the right to have a voice, doesn’t mean anyone cares or wants to hear it. Please leave the “fear mongering” and elementary school reverse psychology “you are not really free unless you read my blog and then decide” for the local tea party fools who you can blather your birther conspiracies to! You sir, as another poster already stated:
              A Faux Libertarian

              1. Mathew, Mathew, Mathew, you remind me of those liberal nazis that like to decide what is good and what is bad for the rest of us. I am far more libertarian than you are, I do no need to use “fear mongering” since there are so many real things to be afraid of. Frankly, you remind me of the liberals that couldn’t believe Alger Hiss was a communist no matter the evidence, even after the Russians admitted he was a communist spy in the documents release known as The Venona Papers.

                Read “Treason” by Ann Coulter, it will open your eyes.

                1. Greg every statement you write shows how fake of a libertarian you are. The fact that you cite Ann “Bleeping” Coulter as any kind of relevant source, demonstrates how uninformed you are. Ann Coulter is not a libertarian, you are not a libertarian. We already have a term to describe the simplistic/ignorant political philosophy you and her espouse; it’s called Neo-Con.

                  I don’t need you to inform me of fears, I’ve done 15 month tours in Iraq during my stint in the Army and I’m fully aware of real vs. manufactured threats. You sir rely on hysteria and misinformation just like most ignorant Neo-Con/Teapartiers pretending to be libertarians, you are easily identified by your use of liberal use of “Hitler” and ad-hominem attacks without any real credible facts regarding the issues you are discussing. Me personally, I like to know what “actually” happened.

                  By the way it’s not a conscience that on a true “Libertarian” site, everyone on here has told you to piss off or called your crappy blog out for being hyperbole fear mongering garbage. I would never say you don’t have a right to your hair brained opinion because you do. The problem is that your type of ranting/border line lunatic thinking; pollutes the market place of ideas from people actually having an informed discussion.

                2. Citing ANN COULTER? LOL! Who will you cite next? The Psychic Friends Network? Dude, she is a fruitcake nutjob wanna-be-fascist liar. Not at all libertarian, so, it’s not like she gets you any ‘street cred’ on that either.

    2. Texas disagrees with you.

      Also, the day I turned 18, was my 17-year-old boyfriend “off-limits”?

      1. Yes! I saw an episode on Nightline about that. When you’re 18 you’re an adult, your boyfriend is a minor, so if his parents don’t want you diddling him, they can call the cops and you can get arrested, maybe charged, maybe forced to register as a sex offender.

        Carleton University discriminates against Pro-Life students.…..inats.html

    3. Nope, I live on the NY/PA border. Here, it’s 17, but when I go south of the border (pardon the pun (no, actually don’t)), it’s 16.

    4. I was 16 dating a 15 y/o. Two years later, I was 18, and she as 17. So, all of a sudden, I should have stopped and waited 10 months until she turned 18?

    5. Gregory Smith, you are a motherfucking scumbag, and of course not a libertarian. More like the typical american christian nazi.

  16. He’s a cop, it’s his job to know the law. Anyone under 18 is a minor! You don’t sleep with minors if you’re an adult, why is that so hard to understand?

    Not so free Internet at the public library.

    1. Um … he didn’t get in trouble for sleeping with them. In fact, the article repeatedly points out that that would have been perfectly legal.

      He got in trouble because they gave him naughty photos of themselves.

      1. Then the law needs to be changed, if you have to be 18 to vote like an adult then you should be 18 to have sex with an adult. Allowing minors to act have adults benefits no one, what if they get pregnant? You think the fathers of those two whores deserve to be stuck raising a bastard? OF course not!

        Farrakhan wants to bring Arab violence to America.…..lence.html

        1. Dude. You are so lame.
          a.) RTFA. b.) You don’t have to link to your shitty blog in your post as well as on your name tag…in every single post.

          Go pawn your Muslim paranoia where someone actually gives a shit.

          1. Plenty of politically incorrect libertarians give a shit.

            It’s PC pansies like you that would rather put your head in the sand while the Jihadists try to cut it off.

            Carleton University discriminates against Pro-Life students.

            1. “Pro-Life students”

              You mean anti-abortion. No one is anti-life. Shithead.

              1. Aw, if you support abortion you are anti-life, and I’m saying as a pro-choicer myself. Of course, my pro-choice stand is due to economic reason, I hate women that have babies to get on welfare. If they’re too stupid to put the baby up for adoption or not get pregnant in the first place, I’d rather see them abort at their expense instead of passing the bill to me.

                1. Does anyone have troll feed around here? This one seems hungry and I’m out of gnomes.

              2. Qadaffi anyone?

        2. So, all minors should go to jail for having sex under 18? Kids don’t just get pregnant from people over 18, you know.

          1. No, a minor can have sex with a minor (although a 17 year old doing a 12 year old is probably not a good idea), but adults have to follow the law. It’s the reason we have adult courts and juvenile courts, different expectations according to age.

            1. (This is in reference to the general theme of all your posts in this article) I hope you’re not serious. If you are, stop breathing immediately.

    2. Did you even read the damn article?

    3. Why is it so hard to understand that “minor” =/= “child”?

  17. Does the TSA have an exemption?

  18. We are a perverted country obsessed with sexuality in the worst possible way. Leave to humans to turn one of God’s greatest gifts into something ugly and obscene.

    1. Can’t we do what we like with a gift?

      Gifts with strings attached are just obligations.


        1. NOOOOOOOOOOO!


    2. In addition, there is no advocacy group to put some sense back into these laws. After all, who wants to be associated with a ‘sex-offender’ – even if they never touched or photographed anyone.

      Looking back at not so long ago history: Like France, many other countries, increased the age of consent to 13 in the 19th century. Nations, such as Portugal, Spain, Denmark and the Swiss cantons, that adopted or mirrored the Napoleonic code likewise initially set the age of consent at 10-12 years and then raised it to between 13 and 16 years in the second half of the 19th century. In 1875, England raised the age to 13 years; an act of sexual intercourse with a girl younger than 13 was a felony. In the U.S., each state determined its own criminal law and age of consent ranged from 10 to 12 years of age. U.S. laws did not change in the wake of England’s shift. Nor did Anglo-American law apply to boys.

      I’m surprised that we don’t have an officially named Puritan Party. Oh no..can’t have the abbreviation pp!

  19. Was he allowed to take the photos to jail with him as a memento?

  20. “If you’re 18 or older you should know that anyone under 18 is off limits.”

    That could include two high school seniors in the same classroom you know.

  21. Then there sre emancipated minors, how do they fit in? They’re recognized as adults by the law, but no sex for them? Could a 16 year old emancipated minor be charged with kiddie diddling for having sex with a 17 year old?

  22. Could a 16 year old emancipated minor be charged with kiddie diddling for having sex with a 17 year old?

    You got it backwards. Could anyone be charged for having sex with an emancipated minor? Good question.

  23. My own view is that the minimum age of consent should be identical to the minimum age at which one can be charged with rape – legally linked, so that any law that changes the age for one automatically changes the other as well.

    Either one is old enough to understand when a having sex is a bad idea, or else one isn’t.

    1. Very close to my idea that the age of majority should be set to the youngest age at which a juvenile offender in the state has been charged as an adult.

      1. Whole heartedly agree.

        The same goes in reverse-if they’re took young to serve on a jury, their too young be tried as an adult by one.

      2. Sound logic. I like it.

  24. “Could a 16 year old emancipated minor be charged with kiddie diddling for having sex with a 17 year old?”

    Could they *both* be charged with kiddie diddling for having sex with each other?

    Even if they were married to each other?

    The terrifying thing is that these aren’t silly questions.

  25. If this were to involve, say, my pets, would the age be calculated in human years, or dog years?

  26. Rage fatigue. I feel nothing. No concern, no sense of injustice. Just don’t care. I read this site, Balko’s Moring Cheerfest ™, and a few others. I am a crim defense lawyer and I just feel nothing.

    There is only so much of my time that I can devote to these things, and I guess, like the rest of the US on most other abuses, a ball game is on, a royal wedding, or Oscar results take priority.

  27. I assume that the difference is that having sex is a single act in time, performed privately with a consenting (young) person.

    Taking a photo:
    1) Lasts forever.
    2) Can get shared with the whole world instantly

    3) The porn will still be around encouraging others to do bad things to DIFFERENT young girls, or whatever it is the anti-porn people believe. Don’t ask me.

    1. 2) Can get shared with the whole world instantly

      Yes, porn is great. The american turds should learn a bit from the japanese.

  28. the sentence really doesn’t fit the culpability.”

    What culpability?

    For a bank robber to get Rinehart’s sentence, Hamilton writes, “he would need to fire a gun, inflict serious bodily injury on a victim, physically restrain another victim, and get away with the stunning total of $2.5 million.”

    Well, if he got away with it, then he wouldn’t get any sentence, would he?

  29. “U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton”

    Oh, the irony.

    But seriously, how did this even get to a federal court? Appeal courts have thrown out these types of cases on commerce clause grounds without even a serious debate. Something not right here. Regarding the increase in the magic age from 16 to 18 in order to protect 15 year olds, the same rationale was recently used by The Empire in their push to raise the magic age to 21. I don’t think Ashley Montagu had an everlasting legal adolescence in mind when he coined the phrase “Growing Young.”

  30. I have always been opposed to mandatory minimum sentences because they remove the option of considering individual circumstances, essential in a true justice system, and because they fly in the face of the concept of letting the punishment fit the crime. This case presents yet another reason for the need to abolish them. The entire situation is totally, stupidly ridiculous,ludicrous,and insane. Surely, at some point along the way, there was something that someone could have done–or not done–that could have prevented this unbelievable travesty of justice.

  31. To me this is just another example of making laws too specific.

    It is pointless to outlaw any type of photograph. It is just ink on paper or 1’s and 0’s in a computer. When people make child porn they are already breaking serious laws and the photographs should be used as evidence to convict those criminals.

    Maybe if we spent less time hunting down harmless perverts, we could afford to keep actual offenders in jail instead putting them on a list and releasing them into the public.

    1. you must also not understand that making something a hate crime is the best way to prevent it!

      because if it is a double secret probation crime, then people wont do it!

  32. “You could argue that it makes sense to have a higher age of consent for sexually explicit photos than for sexual activity because photos can be preserved and distributed. That means one bad decision can cause lasting harm, something a 16- or 17-year-old disoriented by love or passion may not be mature enough to consider.”

    The feds believe getting pregnant in high school doesn’t cause lasting harm?

  33. This guy gives me hope

  34. Raise Indiana’s age for consenual sex to 18 years, with adults over 18. That would’ve ended any hypocrisy in the present Hoosier laws.

    1. And made criminals of so many? No.

  35. So, why wasn’t this girl charged with producing the picture? I know it’s all the rage to arrest and prosecute kids for “victimizing” themselves with these pictures. So, why not here?

  36. This is actually a running meme in patrol. We deal with age of consent issues a lot, obviously. I used to work in a state where the age of consent was 14, with no age differential. 60 yr old and a 14 yr old? Legal.

    Regardless, we tell people – perfectly legal to have sex with a 16 yr old, but one silly cameraphone pic could be a felony.

    It is ABSOLUTELY absurd. But it’s the law. and as in so many cases, the law is an ass.

    1. 60 yr old and a 14 yr old? Legal.

      And why should it be ilegal?

  37. If the judge was so reluctant to send the guy to jail, why didn’t he find a reason to declare a mistrial or throw the case out on its lack of merit?

  38. There is something seriously wrong with this country when a person can do less time for a murder, than for being in possession of pixels on a computer.

  39. And of course, we now bring you UTAH’s unique approach to the subject of mutually underaged sex. They’re BOTH GUILTY!

    Wednesday the Utah Supreme Court found itself in legal pickle, as it looked at a case in which a 13-year-old girl who’d gotten pregnant with her 12-year-old boyfriend as simultaneously a victim and a sex offender. Comparing the state’s ill-conceived statutory rape laws with those concerning 19th century honor killings, Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins told the Salt Lake Tribune: “The only thing that comes close to this is dueling.”…..index.html

  40. Andrew, that is an old case, and one that I quote frequently. It remains, at least in my mind, the absolute lowest to which this national hysteria with anything vaguely related to sex has brought us. Both the girl and her boyfriend were charged with, “sexual assault of a child under the age of 14,” and each was named as the victim in the other’s case. If you know of anything more ridiculous, please share.

  41. Crazy story! People need to voice their opinions on this matter and come up with better solutions for the law regarding this! The best place to share and evaluate anonymous opinions is at this site… I want to see what most people think…

  42. Whoa…since when did you guys start doing game commentary?

  43. Are there worse scumbags than american puritans? I say no – american puritans are the worst scumbags on earth.

  44. This is my uncle & 16 is consent.. Whoever says cops are “sleazy” is crazy. These girls were all for it being with him doing whatever they did and he obviously went along with it. It’s crazy how he gets 15 years for this… I am baffled by some of these comments. These girls are just as “sleazy” as cops are then. People truly amaze me.

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