Sex Crimes

Romeo and Juliet and Sexting: 17-Year-Old Faces Child Porn, Assault Charges for Consensual Sex with Girlfriend

'They said that all they were going to do was delete the photos from the phone, so I blindly signed a paper allowing them to access it.'

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Austin
Austin Yabandith / Facebook (April, 2013)

For an update, scroll to the bottom.*

"After being arrested, I was suicidal and hopeless," Austin Yabandith, a 17-year-old from Superior, Wisconsin, recalls. "As of right now, I am just hoping for the best and preparing for the worst."

The "worst" would be pretty bad. After discovering indecent photos of Austin's 15-year-old girlfriend on his cell phone—as well as a video of the couple having sex—authorities charged him with sexual assault of a child, sexual exploitation, and possession of child pornography. The sexual assault charge is considered a Class C felony, and carries a maximum (though unlikely) sentence of 40 years in prison.

One might argue that a sexual predator deserves such a fate. But Austin isn't a sexual predator. He didn't assault anyone, or send child porn. By one important measure, he is a child himself: the age of consent in Wisconsin is 18, which means Austin is technically under-age, just like the girlfriend he is accused of exploiting.

But Wisconsin's sex offender laws contain a curious quirk: 17-year-olds can be charged as adults—even though the law considers them to be children and incapable of consenting to sex. It's an absurd contradiction that calls to mind the prosecution of North Carolina 17-year-old Cormega Copening, who faced third-degree sexual exploitation charges for taking inappropriate photos of a minor. The teen was charged as an adult, even though he was one of the minors in question—some of the pictures were ones Copening had taken of himself.

Austin's situation is worse. Much worse.

That's because Wisconsin's laws are actually more punitive than North Carolina's. In many U.S. jurisdictions, the law permits consensual relationships with underage teens if the perpetrator is no more than four years older than the other person: this category of exceptions is typically called the "Romeo and Juliet" law—a foreboding tribute to the most well-known underage couple in English literature.

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states with no Romeo and Juliet exception.

Austin and his girlfriend "Kim" (not her real name*) dated for more than a year. Though two years apart in age, they attended the same high school. Kim's parents were supportive of their relationship, according to Austin. They even gave him condoms and put her on birth control, he says.

"I figured that since we had consent from her parents and she wanted it as well, that we could have sex," says Austin.

That was a mistake, as far as the law is concerned—even though it's perfectly normal for teens to form committed relationships with other teens, fall in love, and engage in sex.

Another mistake was living in Wisconsin—where laws prohibiting teen relationships are particularly spiteful.

But Austin's biggest mistake, arguably, was trusting Tom Johnson, the police liaison stationed at his high school, when the officer asked to take a look at his cell phone. Austin cooperated: he didn't think he had anything to hide, or any reason to worry that he could be in trouble with the law.

He was wrong.

Star-Cross'd Sexting

Before the police turned his life upside down, Austin was living with his mother and brother in a two-bedroom duplex in Superior, Wisconsin. Austin's father isn't in the picture anymore—he lives in Laos and hasn't seen the boys in years, according to Austin's mother, Amy.

Amy married again after Austin's father, but that marriage ended in divorce as well. She now works as a personal caregiver. They're a low-income family, she says.

Austin is your average teenager. He likes hanging out with his friends and playing sports—basketball most of all, though he says he's better at football.

"He's a really good kid," his mother tells me. "He just fell for a girl."

Said girl is Kim. After meeting at a beach party, they exchanged contact information and then started skyping each other all the time. They attended Superior High School together—two grades apart—and dated for more than a year.

"We'd talk all night," Austin recalls. "Help each other with homework."

They were also having sex—something their parents were aware of—and occasionally exchanging sexy text messages. Austin received dozens of texts from Kim. Like a responsible boyfriend, he kept them to himself.

A year into their relationship, in the spring of 2016, Austin, then a junior, discovered that Kim, a freshman, had sexted with someone else—a boy in her own grade named Thomas. Kim used snapchat to send the photos to Thomas, meaning that they would normally disappear 10 seconds after being viewed. But Thomas used his phone to take screenshots of the graphic pictures of Kim. He then shared the photos with several of his male friends, creating a sexting scandal at the school.

Austin was heartbroken over Kim's betrayal.

"It was a big deal for me and my family," says Austin.

Kim's parents first found out about the situation from Austin's mother, who called them to let them know. On May 6, Kim's mother notified Super High School's assistant principal, Bill Punyko, that several boys were circulating sexual pictures of Kim. Punyko informed Tom Johnson, the school's police officer and liaison to the Superior police department.

Superior High School is one of the roughly 40 percent of American public high schools with a dedicated school resource officer (SRO): a cop assigned to patrol the school. In theory, the cops are there to maintain order and prevent violence. But in practice, cops can have a detrimental effect on the disciplinary policies of schools, because their mere presence tends to elevate disputes between students into criminal issues.

Kim's sexting scandal is a case in point. Officer Johnson initiated his investigation on May 6. By the time it had concluded—two and a half months later—he would recommend that six teenagers be arrested for possession of child pornography, including Kim herself.

Five of the teens haven't been prosecuted. The sixth is Austin.

Fortune's Fool

Officer Johnson began with Thomas. The teenager was told that he was not under arrest and could return to class if he wished, according to the police report. Thomas told the officer that he knew Kim and Austin were dating, but liked her anyway. He said he convinced Kim to send him her nudes after winning a game they were playing: After she complied, he reciprocated. He admitted that he had saved the pictures—despite Kim using snapchat to avoid this exact possibility—and later shared them with "a couple people," including Austin, who had demanded to see them to verify that Kim had indeed cheated on him.

Thomas also told Johnson he was afraid that Austin was going to beat him up.

At the officer's suggestion, Thomas signed a waiver allowing him to search the teen's phone.

Johnson then interviewed Austin, who was "angry that his girlfriend would send nude photos of herself to [Thomas]," according to the police report. Johnson warned Austin not to start a fight with Thomas. Then he asked to take a look at Austin's phone.

Austin agreed—a decision he regrets to this day.

"They said that all they were going to do was delete the photos from the phone so I blindly signed a paper allowing them to access it," Austin recalls.

I sent an email to Johnson, and left a voicemail message for him at the school. He did not respond to requests for comment.

After speaking with Kim and Thomas again, Johnson was able to obtain the names of three boys who had received Kim's photos from Thomas: Hugo, Julius, and Arnold. Johnson then interviewed Hugo, who confirmed that he had received Kim's photos. Johnson obtained Hugo's father's permission to search his phone.

Johnson did not receive Thomas's mother's permission to search his phone. But this wasn't enough to save Thomas. As Johnson noted in the police report, "the phone will be placed into evidence until a search warrant can be obtained."

Next up was Julius. During his interview, Julius admitted to receiving Kim's pictures from Thomas. He said he never sent them to anyone else, and allowed his phone to be searched. His parents consented to the search as well, according to the police report.

After Julius came Arnold, who also admitted to receiving the pictures of Kim. Like Julius, he agreed to let Johnson search his phone.

Last up was Kim herself. Kim expressed dismay and frustration that Thomas had shared her pictures with so many people. And she was worried about Austin: specifically, that he was now in trouble, even though he wasn't the one who had wronged her. Kim mentioned to Johnson that it wasn't just sexting—Kim and Austin were sleeping together.

"I thanked [Kim] for the information and she left my office," Johnson noted in his report.

More Woe

Kim's betrayal of Austin did not dampen his feelings for her.

"I still love and cared for her," he says. "I wasn't mad. I was hurt."

From his perspective, Kim needed him more than ever—she was depressed and suicidal following the sharing of her sexts.

I reached out to Kim, who agreed to talk to me about the sexting situation and her relationship with Austin. Before she could answer any of my questions, her father called me: he threatened to contact the police and forbade me to have any further contact with her. Before I could question him, he hung up the phone.

Roughly two weeks after Johnson conducted his interviews, Austin and Kim decided to skip school together, and spent the morning in Austin's makeshift room in the basement of the duplex where he and his family live. The landlord hadn't given permission for anyone to occupy the basement, however, and the couple was discovered when someone went downstairs to check a water meter. The police were called.

What happened next is up for debate. Austin believes the police convinced Kim's parents to file a restraining order against him: the report, on the other hand, makes it sound as if Kim's parents were eager to find a way to prevent Austin from interacting with their daughter. The police report insists that Kim's mother referenced the teens' sexual relationship disapprovingly. Kim's mother "wanted this documented on a police report, for possible charges against Austin."

The restraining order took Austin's mother Amy by surprise.

"I always thought they liked him," she says.

Austin was prohibited from having further contact with Kim, though police frequently stopped at his house to see if she was there: she had run away from home, Austin later found out.

"Once the restraining order came along, I was lost and lonely," says Austin. "And worst of all, I was scared for her life. The more time that passed without us talking, the more I heard about her getting into deeper trouble by running away."

The hammer of justice fell on July 15, after a forensics unit finished examining all the phones belonging to the various teenagers. According to Johnson's report, the evidence was clear: all of them were guilty of possessing child pornography.

Since Thomas was under 17 years of age, he was referred to something called Juvenile Intake—the equivalent of being arrested for minors. According to a spokesperson for the Superior Police Department, the charges against Thomas are listed as "inactive," which means that prosecutors have not opted to charge him with a crime.

Hugo, also a minor, was referred to Juvenile Intake. He isn't being prosecuted.

The same goes for Julius. The same goes for Arnold.

Even Kim—the supposed victim in all this—was referred to Juvenile Intake. But like the others, she hasn't been prosecuted.

Austin—the only boy involved in the sexting scandal who didn't betray Kim's privacy—wasn't so lucky.

"I will be attempting to contact and arrest Austin Yabandith as soon as possible for his role," Johnson wrote in the report. "Yabandith is an adult."

Three days later, Johnson arrested Austin at his home. The teen answered the door wearing nothing but a pair of shorts. Johnson allowed him to put on some shoes, grab a shirt, and say goodbye to his mother before carting him off to jail.

Damned Saint, Honorable Villain

For now, Austin is out on bail, awaiting his next court date. He is charged with sexual exploitation, sexual assault of a child under the age of 16, and possession of child pornography. He waived a preliminary hearing and is now waiting for his arraignment—a formal reading of the charges against him—on October 18.

He is being represented by the public defender assigned to him. His family can't afford better legal representation.

"I'm scared," Austin tells me. "My life could be completely ruined by this."

His would not be the first. The criminal justice system's love affair with overzealously prosecuting sex crimes has imposed life-derailing sanctions on countless teens. Laws that were designed to punish pedophiles—adults who take advantage of kids decades younger—are being haphazardly deployed against the kids themselves. Consider Karlo Ponzanelli, a 17-year-old who was sentenced to six months in jail, probation, and 10 years on the sex offender registry, for having sex with an underage girl. Or Zach Anderson, a 19-year-old who was sentenced to 25 years on the sex offender registry for having sex with a 14-year-old who had pretended to be 17. Or Cormega Copening. Or the Manassas-area 17-year-old who was arrested for sexting with his 15-year-old girlfriend. In that case, officers working for a task force that focused on crimes against children obtained a warrant to give him an erection and photograph it. The officer in charge of the task force, David Abbott, later committed suicide before he could be arrested. The authorities suspect he was actually a sex predator.

Abbott is an extreme example of law enforcement's disturbing role in these cases. Most cops who investigate sexting probably have good intentions. But the result is the same: adults rifling through graphic photos of underage teenagers in order to punish the teenagers for doing this exact thing.

The difference is critical. It's wrong for a middle-aged person to view a child as a sexual being. But it's not wrong for teenagers of relatively similar ages to view each other that way. On the contrary: it's just about the most natural impulse a teenager possesses. Sexting is nothing more than a modern way for teenagers to act on these impulses—there isn't anything uniquely sinister or dangerous about it. Elizabeth Englander, a psychologist at Bridgewater State University, writes that the practice is becoming "a normal part of teens' sexual development," and shouldn't be demonized. The practice is so widespread as to be unpreventable, anyway: more than half of college undergraduates engaged in sexting when they were minors.

Schools have a legitimate interest in preventing kids from sharing each other's pictures with the entire student body. But they can address the so-called scourge of sexting the same way they address other behavioral problems: confiscate phones, assign detention, and contact parents. They can make it clear that sexting at school is against the rules. What they shouldn't do is call the cops.

Of course, schools have little choice of whether to involve the criminal justice system when a police officer is already roaming the halls.

"Things were taken way too far before we had a chance to fix the situation ourselves," says Austin.

For what it's worth, Austin doesn't blame his current situation on Kim. "People make mistakes," he says.

If only the criminal justice system had the same attitude toward teen relationships.

*Note: I changed the names of all the teenagers mentioned in this article, with the exception of Austin. His name had already been divulged by a previous news article in the Superior Telegram.

*Updated on September 16 ay 3:00 p.m.: Austin's mother is trying to raise money to help pay for his legal expenses (something several commenters helpfully suggested). Go here to donate.

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  1. Yet another tragic lesson to never cooperate with the police.
    Never. Cooperate. With. The. Police.
    “Do you have a warrant?”
    “Am I under arrest?”

    Without a warrant, show them nothing. Allow them no entrance. Do not talk to them.
    It is impossible to be rude to a police officer. It is possible to remain silent. Entirely silent.
    It is reasonable and proper to fear them.

    Remember, too, that the police took more in civil asset forfeiture than the total amount of burglaries.
    They are merely the criminals who happen to be in charge.

    1. (1) Do not trust the police.

      (2) When it looks as though you can trust the police, refer to (1).

      Also:

      He is being represented by the public defender assigned to him. His family can’t afford better legal representation.

      He is so fucked.

      1. As he should be. This will teach him and his “sexting” cohorts, and set an example for the rest of society too. Child pornography is illegal, especially when the perpetrators are electronically trolling and “sexting” around. The law is the law, and we should trust the courts to work this one out the way they’ve worked out many other “controversial” issues. For a pertinent case in point, see the documentation of America’s leading criminal “satire” case at:

        http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

      2. ” He is being represented by the public defender assigned to him. His family can’t afford better legal representation.

        He is so fucked.”

        Actually, for all it’s undeniable faults, WI has one of the most respected and well-funded public defender agencies in the country. Staff public defender attorneys, particularly in rural counties such as Superior, are usually the best attorney a defendant can hope to get. Because working for the PD Agency in WI is a viable career option, the vast majority of PDs there are skilled litigators and negotiators.

        I get that the general perception of PDs is that they are overworked, ineffective, or outright incompetent. Often that perception is fair (i.e., see Louisiana and Missouri, again, fully due to a lack of funding), but painting every public defender in the nation with that broad generalization is irresponsible and inherently ignorant.

        1. Hopefully the public defender will perform his duty as an officer of an American court, and assist our reputable criminal justice system in sending a clear message that “sexting” with minors will not be tolerated in this great nation, regardless of any “alleviating” circumstances.

          1. Defense counsel is primarily imbued with one duty: to effectively and zealously advocate for the interests of his or her client.

            I’m completely flummoxed by your apparent point of view that this poor young man’s attorney should work to make him an example.

            You clearly do not grasp the correct role of a criminal defense attorney.

            1. That may be true in general, but not when dealing with issues as grave as “sexting,” insidious “satire,” or involvement in abominable trigger-speech activities. When the client is guilty of such crimes, surely it is defense counsel’s duty to convince him to rapidly plead guilty to whatever he has been charged with, serve his sentence, and mend his nefarious ways. That, indeed, is the interest of the client himself. Yes, make an example of him; at least some good can come from this sinister seed.

    2. If you don’t give them entrance then there is a good chance they will just put you in handcuffs and do the search anyway. Then in their report they will lie and say you consented.

      If you don’t talk then there is a good chance they will arrest you for obstruction or some other fake charge, and again fill out some fictional report to fuck you over.

      Once you are in their crosshairs, you are fucked. Period.

      1. you could fake a medical emergency and go limp/play dead.

        1. I’m overheating.

        2. Nah, police don’t care if you die.

          Ask Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddy Gray…

      2. Yeah, if they have decided they are going to get you, they will find a way.

        But you still keep your mouth shut.

        This kid was probably fucked anyway. The advice is probably more helpful to people who the police haven’t taken a particular interest in. Unless there is absolutely no way to avoid it, do what you can to avoid any interaction with police.

        1. “…do what you can to avoid any interaction with police.”…….without enabling said police to make up “suspicious behavior’ for trying to avoid Them. Not so easy, huh.

      3. Still, you’re not improving your chances by talking to them, ever. Always, always get a lawyer first.

    3. Yup. Not to mention the fact that Kim didn’t consent to have this officer see her photos. But the article also mentions that, in the case of someone else who didn’t consent to a search, the police said that “the phone will be placed into evidence until a search warrant can be obtained.” On what grounds could they do that? Did Austin fear that could happen to his phone if he didn’t consent to the search?

    4. Just remember that “Get a warrant” gives the police they excuse to beat and kill you.

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  2. Well, uhm… Thanks for that.

    I’ll just be over here trying to convince myself that there is still some good in the world.

  3. Look at that photo. Thank Zod this monster is off the streets. /s

    The one kid who wasn’t a dick in this whole episode and the state is going to do all it can to ruin his life.

    1. The picture is also three years old. Robby is pulling a Trayvon!

      1. Dammit. /grabs pitchfork.

    2. That’ll teach him not to be an asshole!

      If not, a few years in the rape dungeon certainly will. And if all that rapes turns him into a lunatic and he assaults someone, it’ll just prove that they were right to nab the bastard in the first place.

      Detectives Benson and Stabler to the rescue!

    3. but he was the one porking the ‘little girl’, so they have to nail someone

    4. Didn’t he show off the pics he got of a 15 year old child as if they were some prize? He violated her trusting in him.

  4. This is all confusing since you changed the names. Which one is Jerry Springer again?

    The whole thing could be over with if the governor pardons all involved and demands the laws get revamped. I daresay it might even get him a few supporters.

  5. Don’t. Trust. Cops.

  6. silly me, there i go thinking a minor can’t abrogate their civil rights all by themselves thus making everything the RSO found on that phone inadmissible.

    1. The kid is being charged as an adult… the prosecutor could probably spin this as he was an adult for search purposes.

      1. i imagine the prosecutor could spin it as a bald-faced civil rights violation and the judge would allow it.

  7. You know, the laws are fucked up, but cops and prosecutors have discretion.

    The one missing element here is that the parents of the girl seem like your typical hysterical, hypocritical fucks and may be pushing things. Robby says the cop ‘convinced’ them to get the restraining order. What are the odds they were embarrassed and flipping out over their little princess being involved in this crap and were looking for scapegoats not caring what damage they did to anyone else?

    1. Or, alternate interpretation:

      Since she was at the center and facing potential charges for creating and distributing child pornography, they took the chance offered by police and prosecutors to play the victim and avoid prosecution.

      I’d say it makes the most sense if they were playing a real game of “prisoner’s dilemma” for their daughter’s life.

    2. I read it as the cops were basically manipulating all involved to get the result they wanted.

      1. *Someone* needed to go down and Austin was the easiest to prosecute.

    3. The girl’s parents give her and her boyfriend condoms and the pill. They reported it when another boy started sharing nudes of her around campus.

  8. But Austin’s biggest mistake, arguably, was trusting Tom Johnson, the police liaison stationed at his high school, when the officer asked to take a look at his cell phone.

    You can’t say public schools aren’t preparing children for the real world. The young man and likely his classmates won’t be willingly assisting police in their own demise again. Valuable life lessons.

    1. In this instance, the cops likely had everything they needed for a warrant, anyway.

      1. “…everything they needed for a warrant…”

        You mean, a judge with a pulse?

  9. Wisconsin has the strictest underage sex laws in the USA, as well as the harshest punishments for violating them.
    For comparison, California and New York are #2 and #3.

    It’s not unheard of for two minors to have consensual sex only to be charged with raping each other in those three states. There has even been the odd case now and then of the victim of forcible rape being charged with statutory rape because the rapist was underage too.

    1. That can’t be true, can it? I should probably know better than to say this by now, but that just seems too unbelievable.

      1. Statutory rape is a strict liability crime. You don’t have to knowingly have sex with a minor. So is it really a stretch to say that unwillingly having sex with a minor is the same thing? Particularly if said minor is the child of a powerful community leader….

        I wrote a paper about a similar subject way back in undergrad. It seems a 13 year old boy was having sex with a 17 year old girl. She was only days away from her 18th birthday, and he was barely 13. But her dad was a District Attorney in Washington DC. So he got the 13 year old charged as an adult with statutory rape and … get this…. corrupting the morals of a minor.

        Yeah, the kid was convicted. So hurrah for our legal system.

        1. Another interesting fact: in several states, including my own Ohio, under aged boys who are victims of statutory rape can be made to pay child support for the children conceived by the women who raped them.

          Just imagine the media’s response if a girl were made by the court to pay her rapist a stipend for the privilege of being raped. No doubt Hillary will fix all this though.

        2. Share this with the world.

        3. Its more obvious that its due to one of them being a female. The perp is always the male. Just like this article.

    2. And Wisconsin also has the most lax drunk driving laws in the country. First offense OWI isn’t even a criminal offense as long as you don’t crash the car. It is an administrative issue; you will get your license suspended, and pay a fine, but there is no jail for the first offense. So, get drunk and drive? Bad. Have consensual sex underage? Worse.

      1. In most of Wisconsin they have a bar beside every grocery. So you drive into town and do your shopping at the supermarket, then you stop in next door for a couple of beers. If you live more than 20 minutes outside the town, you stop off at the little juke joint on the way home for a couple more.

        It is just the way things are done.

        1. I guess that’s one way to get through having to live in Wisconsin. And dying younger is probably more of a perk than a bug. They have their first snow up their yet?

      2. I’m old enough to remember when police officers actually helped and served. Driving drunk is stupid, but cops would follow you home or vice versa to actually keep people safe. Sadly, the criminal justice system is merely a new and improved revenue stream for state.

        1. John said, “I’m old enough to remember when police officers actually helped and served.”

          Quick, somebody call Guinness. I found the oldest man in the world.

        2. Because cops were the people back then. The smaller the town, the more likely people are to be treated like humans in both directions.

    3. I can’t understand why the girl’s parents aren’t being charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, by handing her condoms and the pill. They’re encouraging people who can’t consent to sex to have it.

  10. Three Strikes. Trust a cop, trust a teenage girl, live in Wisconsin.

    1. They could use your 3 strikes for an updated “Bad Idea” jeans skit ala SNL with David Spade.

      http://www.nbc.com/saturday-ni…..eans/n9937

  11. I wonder if – in a polite society – Mr. Johnson would simply go missing one day and, mystery of mysteries, nobody would seem to know anything about it.

    Not that it would help Austin, but if this became a regular occurrence in these stories, I can’t help but think that willingness to enforce immoral laws would decrease sharply.

    1. I can’t help but think that willingness to enforce immoral laws would decrease sharply.

      That’s backwards. The problem here is that they are enforcing a “moral” law.
      “Nobody should have sex until they’re married so we’ll punish anyone that does anything with a teenager regardless of the consequences and even if we end up punishing teenagers to do it! It’s For The Children!”

      The whole theory that teens can be held responsible as adults for something that is only a crime because they aren’t a responsible adult is another reason people hate lawyers.

    2. If you think something is this wrong, why don’t you make facebook posts about it so people who know you well can know exactly where you stand on child sexuality.

      I bet you don’t want to be publicly seen to endorse it. I wonder why.

  12. Does Robby intend to push every story below this one off the front page, or is that just icing on the cake?

  13. This is a perfect scenario of why jury nullification was created – stupid laws. Too bad the jury would never get to hear about their option to use nullification even if the poor kid were to have a jury trial. As with most times someone is charged with anything, they will coerce him into accepting a plea for fear of a long prison sentence.

    These laws are more about grandstanding for politicians than protecting anyone, let alone children.

  14. So in that state, two 17 year olds could each be charged as adults for committing statutory rape of a minor by having consensual sex with each other. Insane.

    1. More insane is the long, unbroken line of successful people who have taken a look at this and said, “yes, this is good!”

      Every time a case is brought, there are judges who could rule that it is unconstitutional to declare the same person both a minor and an adult at the same time for the purposes of the same activity.

      Every time on of these cases hits the paper, state lawmakers have it right in front of them to do something.

      They all punt. Every last one of them says there’s nothing wrong with it and just lets people keep on getting hurt. Any claim that it is a crime to have sex under the age of 18 should fall on the face of it, with more than half of all people having sex by the age of 16. Any person who would stand up for this law should be reviled. But they are lauded instead.

      Because as a group, we are insane.

      1. >More insane is the long, unbroken line of successful people who have taken a look at this and said, “yes, this is good!”

        I don’t think that this is how it really happens, though. I think that after many attempts, laws like this eventually get passed by people who don’t give a second thought to potential ramifications.

        Then what happens is that nobody is willing to touch it with a ten foot pole. It’s not that they think it’s good necessarily but that they’re terrified that enough people in the public think that the law is good as written and won’t vote for them because they’re “soft on crime.” It’s not the hill many of them are willing to pick to die on. It isn’t worth the expenditure of political capital to change anything for the better.

        1. Nobody is willing to touch it because it has become a taboo to even talk about, let alone argue over.

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  16. Reading reason articles can be so fucking depressing. As a species, we haven’t really advanced morally or rationally past burning witches and public lynchings. Our institutions of authority are still amoral machines populated by sociopaths. And we still demonize normal human sexuality. Completely normal human sexual attraction is somehow seen as monstrous. In fact, we are regressing in this regard. What was seen as natural centuries ago, teenage sexuality, is now criminalized. It’s completely insane.

    1. Let’s see you say this when its a 24 year old guy in a years long relationship with a 15 year old girl.

  17. Robby (or others): any idea if we can donate toward the kid’s defense?

    1. I don’t think he has a GoFundMe page setup. I will inquire.

      1. I will set one up for him. Thank you so much Robby!

    2. I’d be interested in knowing how the author came to the conclusion that he isn’t a sex predator. Because he’s underage and getting off to some child porn rather than over 18?

  18. Just checking, everyone remembers how the “real” Romeo and Juliet ended up, right?

    1. Didn’t they get divorced after she caught Romeo sleeping with Desdimona?

    2. at this point in the USA, physical violence is a reasonable way to affect change. i’m down and all for it.

      1. Oh, shit. I just heard the FBI alarm go off because of your f’n typo. It’s NOT “violence”, you meant “violins.” Damn, you gotta be careful. FTFY In another month Interpol will come looking for you.

        I will be down too once I hear the first violin….in the orchestra pit. Rosin up your bow.

  19. Go fund me does not allow a campaign for criminal defense situations. Does anyone know of any other organizations? Austin is in desperate need of fair legal reprentation and can not afford the 10000 retainer fee they are asking for. Any suggestions??

    1. He’s almost college aged. I doubt any sane individual would object if he spent his college fund for his own defense.

  20. this same government school system is hell-bent upon exposing children to their sexuality, promoting experimentation, telling them anything they want to do is normal and OK and even good…. refuses to teach the benefits of sexual abstinence, and expends large quantities of public funds to promote their family-destroying agenda of free sex being normal…. then ends up destroying selected lives by bringing unwarranted criminal charges on the children they have indoctrinated to believe their behaviour is “normal and good”.

    Can anyone say double standard?

    Its all part of a drive to destroy the nuclear family as God intended it. And its working. Now, add the whole gender dysphoria nonsense to the mix and culture is falling apart.

    1. God intended that the nuclear family be destroyed?

  21. In a similar vein I encourage everyone male college student to charge every female they have ever had sexual contact with, with rape and sexual assault. The only way to fix these laws is to leave blood and destruction in their wake

    1. You are a king among men, trudy. People should be visiting this harm upon underage females and overage females, because only when they start becoming victim to similar laws do the laws seem to change.

  22. it’s perfectly normal for teens to form committed relationships with other teens, fall in love, and engage in sex.

    Yes, clearly.

  23. I know this boy. He sat by me in language class. He is one of the funniest and friendliest people I know. This news is just awful. How the fuck is is possible that a rapist can walk free after 3 months and consensual sex can permanently ruin a boy’s life. My school is absolutely awful. We have had multiple cases where young boys are sent to jail for being in similar situation as Austin. Please help us draw attention to this. Superior needs help and more importantly, Austin needs help.

    1. But he’s a sex predator. He gathered nudes of an underage female child and then showed them to friends.

  24. I am PROUDLY Austins mother. Austin is not only an amazing son, but he is also a compassionate, thoughtful, trusting, respectful human being. Im confident that anybody who truly knows him would feel the same. There is not an inch of him that would want to hurt “kim” let alone abuse and exploit her. He, rightfully so, wanted to protect her. He loved her.
    Although I do admit that parents (as well as the kids) are a big factor, Im frustrated at the school. She was a freshman. I had two family members that were seniors and both had a class with “kim”. If the school is going to put these kids together in classes where they are bound to form connections…shouldnt they teach the consequences? Austin told me they taught him how to have “safe” sex. Never once was it brought up that a “hook up” between classmates can lead to a lock up. If officer Johnson wants to prosecute students for sexting, maybe he should have an annual presentation to let students know the risks beforehand. I dont condone teen sex.. I dont condone Austin having sex…I just want Austin to have a future he deserves. He made some mistakes. Tell me a 17 year old that dont.

    1. Although I do admit that parents (as well as the kids) are a big factor, Im frustrated at the school. She was a freshman. I had two family members that were seniors and both had a class with “kim”. If the school is going to put these kids together in classes where they are bound to form connections…shouldnt they teach the consequences?

      Although I sympathize with your plight, I have to say that wanting to rely on the same government that would put your son in a cage for displaying natural human behavior to “teach the consequences” is more than strange.

      1. http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/teaching-modules/230

        The age of consent law was primarily established to punish both teenage and adult males for sex with underage females.

    2. Best of luck to Austin and the rest of your family. Mom, you do bear responsibility for teaching him to blindly believe/trust authorities. They are the biggest danger to his well being and you presumably left him open to it. Shame on you. His first answer to Johnson should have been that he would not speak with them without a lawyer.

      That said. This IS NOT something your family should have to deal with. This is why children must be taught civics, their rights and rightful distrust of authority.

    3. Hi Austin’s Mom,
      Puberty is a time of substantial biological development in the human lifespan. There is a significant amount neurological remodeling that takes place during puberty. It is also a time of increased sensitivity to stress and for that reason, I have deep concerns about what is being done to your son and in reality to all teenagers. I’m linking a couple of articles that may be of use to you and which might even be worth forwarding to the prosecutor in the case.

      First, we all need to understand that the biological purpose of puberty is to motivate the individual to break away from the family nest and to engage in risk-taking behaviors in order to gain social status in hopes of attracting mates. This is what we are “programmed” to do. It’s not deviant, it’s a fundamental part of our survival and evolutionary success. Pathologizing teenage sexuality is so deeply misguided. As I said, puberty is a period of immense neurobiological development and creating a culture which pathologizes, shames and indeed criminalizes teens naturally occurring sexuality is abhorrent. Turning their own bodies and naturally occurring desires into an enemy that lives within is just heartbreaking.

      continued below

      1. The first link it to Pediatric Professor of Medicine and Indiana University School of Medicine, J. D. Fortenberry’s paper on puberty and adolescent sexuality which provides a critical review of the clash between existing cultural views and scientific biological reality. http://bit.ly/2cEKY2O

        The second paper is by Melissa Meyer, a Phd candidate in Criminology in South Africa providing a feminist, criminologists assessment of sexting as safe space where participants have individual control over what to share, who to share with and when to stop. http://bit.ly/1Rc0WM0

        Best of luck to you and Austin!

        1. No, the moment it is shared you no longer have control.

      2. >Puberty is a time of substantial biological development in the human lifespan. There is a significant amount neurological remodeling that takes place during puberty.

        http://phys.org/news/2010-12-b…..s-40s.html

        >New research from the UK shows the brain continues to develop after childhood and puberty, and is not fully developed until people are well into their 30s and 40s. The findings contradict current theories that the brain matures much earlier.

        Time to raise the age of consent to suit you packman.

      3. >Puberty is a time of substantial biological development in the human lifespan. There is a significant amount neurological remodeling that takes place during puberty.

        http://phys.org/news/2010-12-b…..s-40s.html

        >New research from the UK shows the brain continues to develop after childhood and puberty, and is not fully developed until people are well into their 30s and 40s. The findings contradict current theories that the brain matures much earlier.

        Time to raise the age of consent to suit you packman.

    4. Its only happening because the law exists to punish males who have sex or have sexual pictures of females, even of the same age. You surely wanted these laws when it was punishing a 20 or 30 year old having sex with a 16 year old. Now its being used for it’s intent which is to get justice for the harm visited on underage females through them taking pictures of their own sex organs to gratify viewers, or having outright sex with others. If the acts create the mental trauma, then shouldn’t the punishment be equal for your 17 year old son as it would be for any older person? After all, it is basically the same and there is substantial evidence to prove that age of the perpetrator is not a determining factor for feeling abused or manipulated into sex.

      The age of consent violation should punish underage males as well, otherwise you are admitting that you wish that sex crimes do not receive punishment if the perpetrator is similarly aged. On the one hand, you and everyone else will agree that in the adult world, sex crimes are the worst crimes of all, and should receive extra punishment, as I’m sure you would heartily agree with such punishments for a 20 year old guy or 30 year old guy who got caught doing this with what appears to be this willing 15 year old girl.

      1. On the other hand, far from being considered the worst crime of all when the male is 17, you choose to think of it as being little to no crime at all, that it is such a lesser crime than any other crime a 17 year old could commit.

        For your consideration, assume that the law is designed in your area to exempt people close in age, as it is designed in other parts of the world. That would mean that a 15 or 17 year old could sexually manipulate and coerce someone just as legally as an 18 year old could be sexually coerced and manipulated, provided there is no clear evidence of rape. That means lying about being in love, or “grooming them” to show their nudes, etc. An 18 year old is fully exposed to the possibility of being victimized by a sex predator, and having that victimizing being legal. if the law exempted those who are close aged, then they law would fully expose underage females to the possibility of being victimized by sex predators, and having that victimizing being legal.

        1. This is under the context that sex predators are people who seek out vulnerable people to get them to engage in sex acts or trade sexts, or nudes, as they are often called. This seeking out of vulnerable people who are 18 is legal for any 18-40 year old, or older. With areas that allow close age exemption, underage sex predators, who do the exact same thing, can get away with it.

          If a 40 year old seeks sex or nudes from a willing, participating 15 year old, and that is sex predatory, how is it no longer sex predatory if the younger person is 18? How is it no longer sex predatory if the older person is only 17?

          The reasons both are doing it is the same: they want sexual gratification or visual stimulation. By all rights, your son was seeking gratification from someone deemed by state and social mores as “just a child”. Is it okay for children to prey on other children?

          1. Ever notice that no one ever talks to you?

            1. Probably becauise they support baby rape.

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  26. I agree and I have regrets. Officer Johnson told us we could sign the papers and speed along the process or wait for a warrent, but either way he would gain access to the phone. We, unfortunately, did not have the $5,000 retainer fee (that has now turned into $10k) for an attorney. At the time, Austin felt he had nothing to hide. I asked him about it and trusted him. I do hold blame on my shoulders. I hope other parents can learn from my mistakes.

  27. Thank you for the links. I will read them.

  28. Picture of the kid is included? Does that mean if he were a mean ugly fella he would deserve this treatment?

    One would think that in a case as egregious as this some high end lawyer would take the case pro bono, after all they and their children have to live in the same society.

  29. First off, this little girl shouldn’t have been sexting someone who wasn’t her boyfriend, silly little bitch. Also hunny, I haven’t seen the picture, but if your face was in it bad move…. Second of all this “Thomas” guy should have never been showing the picture around. Last but not least, Austin did little to nothing wrong. I mean if I were him I wouldn’t have kept the photos because the real thing was right there. But all in all if anyone should be in trouble, it should be “Kim” and all the other boys.. even if they are considered minors, do an adult thing face the adult consequences, (or at least the most a minor can be tried for such a thing).
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  31. Officer Johnson is a lying sack of shit and should be executed as a lesson to the other lying sacks of shit.

    The difference between most police officers and most mobsters is primarily the dress code.

  32. ” … it’s perfectly normal for teens to form **committed** relationships with other teens, fall in love, and engage in sex.”

    Not taking the State’s side in this, but no marriage, no commitment.

    1. This line was used 100 years ago to say why it was normal for 14 or 15 year old girls to get bored out by 40 year old men. It was normal back then.

      Now its not normal because the law has been around long enough to denormalize it.

      There is a logical fallacy in the appeal to normalcy.

      Its normal in the middle east to marry off 10 year olds. That doesn’t make it right.

  33. Yes, It’s not that they think it’s good necessarily but that they’re terrified that enough people in the public think that the law is good as written!!!

  34. I’m overheating.
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