Michigan Teenagers in 'Massive Sexting Scandal' Won't Be Treated Like Child Pornographers

State police show notable restraint, seeing the incident as an occasion for education rather than prosecution.



After various cases in which teenagers who exchanged nude photos of themselves were treated as sex offenders (or threatened with such treatment), it is refreshing to come across a sexting case that is notable for the felony charges that are not in the offing. WLUC, an NBC station in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, reports that state police, after uncovering "a massive sexting scandal" involving "200 nude and semi-nude pictures" of female high school students in four districts, are not planning to charge the teenagers with producing, possessing, and distributing child pornography, offenses that carry penalties of up to four years in prison per image. Conviction on such charges also triggers registration as a sex offender.

"The kids don't understand that this could follow them for the rest of their lives," said Sgt. Jason Wickstrom. "I talked to the prosecutor, and the prosecutor and I both said educating these kids, both the male students and the female students, is the best way to handle this situation." Police say nearly 40 students, ages 14 and 15, were involved in taking the pictures or uploading them to Dropbox. Although the pictures were later deleted, Wickstrom noted that Dropbox photos "can be restored for up to 30 days." He said that when some of the girls' parents demanded criminal charges against the boys, "I told them, 'We could go after these boys, but then your daughter is going to be charged too.' That is the way that it would have to be."

That's right: Under child pornography laws, "victims" can also be perpetrators. For once that crazy logic seems to have worked in favor of justice.

[Thanks to CharlesWT for the tip.]