Sex Crimes

The State Has Stopped Trying to Wreck a Teenage Boy's Life Because He Sexted His Girlfriend (For Now)

Austin Yabandith won't go to prison or register as a sex offender. But his mistreatment isn't over yet.

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Austin Yabandith just turned 18. But he's not allowed to see his friends, stay out past 9:00 p.m., use a computer, or even attend school. The Superior, Wisconsin, teen was charged with sexual exploitation for exchanging explicit pictures with his underage girlfriend last summer. Thanks to a plea agreement in Demember, he will will avoid prison time and the sex offender registry as conditions of his plea agreement.

But life has still been difficult for Austin. According to the conditions of his probation, which are listed on a document give to him by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, ordinary teen activities are almost entirely off the table. The document dictating those terms is titled "Standard Sex Offender Rules," even though Austin was not convicted of a felony and does not have to register as a sex offender.

If that sounds unfair, consider this: Austin initially discovered he also wouldn't be able to finish his senior year and graduate high school. Thankfully, this problem has been resolved.

The additional trouble stemmed from the fact that Austin had transferred schools—he was recently attending school over state lines, in Minnesota. The sex offender registry works differently in every state, and even though Wisconsin did not convict Austin of a felony, the misdemeanor charge is enough to get him labelled a sex offender in Minnesota (but not Wisconsin).

Readers will recall that Austin was arrested last July by the school resource officer (essentially a cop stationed at his school full-time) at his previous school, Superior High in Wisconsin, after it was discovered that the teen had sent and received sexts from his girlfriend, Kim (not her real name). Austin and Kim dated for more than a year, were engaged in a consensual sexual relationship, and had the blessing of Kim's parents—they even supplied the couple with birth control.

At the time, Kim was 15 years old, and Austin was 17.

Unbeknownst to Austin, Kim sent additional nude pictures of herself to other boys at the school. School officials eventually learned that students were sexting each other, and the school resource officer, Tom Johnson, leapt into action. He interviewed several of the boys and confiscated their phones. In the course of his investigation, he spoke with Austin as well. Officer Johnson asked if he could see Austin's phone, and Austin agreed, to his eternal regret agreed.

The other boys—the ones who had shared Kim's pictures and actually engaged in wrongdoing—were only 16 years old, which meant they weren't worth prosecuting. But Austin was 17, and 17-year-olds can be charged as adults, according to Wisconsin law. He was charged with possession of child pornography, sexual assault of a child, and sexual exploitation. In the eyes of the law, Austin's consensual relationship with his high school sweetheart was no different than a 50-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old.

Austin faced a possible (though unlikely) sentence of 40 years in prison.

That's the bad news. Now for the better news.

Thanks in part to the public attention generated by Reason's previous reporting on the case, Austin's mother was able to raise enough money to hire a lawyer who specializes in these kinds of cases. That lawyer, Robin Shellow, negotiated a plea deal that would prevent Austin from having to register as a sex offender or spend any additional time in jail.

This might not have been possible without the involvement of the DKT Liberty Project, an advocacy organization that promotes individual liberty. After learning about Austin's situation in the pages of Reason, the DKT Liberty Project agreed to pay his attorney's fees.

While the avoidance of a jail sentence was a major relief for Austin and his mother, they were disappointed in the outcome, given that a misdemeanor conviction could still ruin Austin's life. And he was being treated like a sex offender anyway—he faced significant lifestyle restrictions that left him little choice but to sit at home, wondering if he could ever go back to school.

Since even the misdemeanor would prevent him from completing high school, Shellow asked the judge to vacate Austin's conviction. On Tuesday, the judge agreed—which means Austin can go back to school, a free man.

Still, his ordeal isn't over. After Austin finishes school, the court will re-sentence him in accordance with a misdemeanor conviction.

In essence, Austin has been granted a reprieve to make it more convenient for him to go to school. And he's no longer facing felony charges, as long as he stays out of trouble for a while.

Presumably, however, the court will re-impose probation on him after he finishes out the school year. Instead, prosecutors should drop the case entirely. Austin isn't a threat to society, or to children. He is the one in danger—in danger of being branded a sex offender for engaging in perfectly normal teen behavior.

The authorities in this case have shown a willingness to be practical and consider what's best for Austin. But doing what's really best for Austin means going one step further—dropping the case entirely.

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  1. What kind of scumbag tries to prosecute a kid for this kind of thing, knowing the enormous repercussions it will have for the rest of his life? Teenagers will try to fuck each other. Thus has it ever been, thus will it ever be. Every single boy I was in high school with spent the majority of his waking hours thinking of ways to convince girls to have sex with them – we didn’t have text messages and instagram, dammit, we had to do the equivalent of walking 5 miles to school uphill through the snow to pork girls, dammit.

    1. Having a conscience is a disqualifying factor for potential prosecutors.

    2. The kind of scumbag who wants a pretext for checking young boys phones hoping to see nude pics. That kind. Resource officer need to go to prison.

    3. yes, the real criminal sociopaths are the ones prosecuting this poor kid. In a just world, they would be subjected to public butt rapings.

    4. He was charged with having sex with a girl. He was charged with having photographs of the girl he was having sex with.

      1. There is a “not” missing from my first sentence.

        1. He was charged w not having sex w a girl?

  2. …and the school resource officer, Tom Johnson, leapt into action.

    He no doubt reviewed all the photographic evidence AT LENGTH. He likely then turned the evidence over to detectives who possibly reviewed said evidence AT LENGTH. Those detectives probably then passed the evidence on to prosecutors who surely studied all the photographic evidence AT LENGTH, building a case against the little pervert.

  3. Note that the female isn’t charged…

    1. Equal Protection has been replaced by FYTW. It’s right there in Title IX.

      1. You mean Title LXIX.

        1. Spent more time than I care to admit counting that out, perv.

          1. sloopy tried, but ran out of fingers and toes.

            1. fingers, toes, and . . .

              I tell people I can generally do math up to the number 21. It takes some people awhile to get the joke.

      2. Haha, yeah, that seems to be the clause used in colleges to fuck over men these days.

    2. That’s because women (fuckin’ “female” is an adjective, not a noun) and girls don’t have agency. Don’t you know that? We need protection and guidance from Top Men who knows what’s best!

      1. Dictionary shows it as a noun as well. But you wouldn’t understand, being a female and all.

        1. Way to (((cocksplain))), R.

      2. More agency leads directly to more rape and trafficking. How can you, a woman, advocate for the rape and trafficking of little girls?

    3. Don’t worry all those feminists marching for “equal pay” and against sexism will be right out front on this….

  4. The problem isn’t ‘scumbags prosecuting kids for normal behavior’ or ‘judges refusing to drop cases’. The problem is the bad law in the first place, and the fact that the kids don’t know about them or their rights. As long as we ignore the root problem, it will continue to fester.

    Thanks in part to … Reason’s previous reporting…, Austin’s mother was able to raise enough money to hire a lawyer who specializes in these kinds of cases.

    And I expect Reason to support me too – I promise to be good!

    1. Agree– the culprit is the legislature for passing this dreck to begin with.

      1. The legislators didn’t contemplate this when it came to child porn laws, i.e. the that the illegal pornographer could be the subject of the pornography. But it’s their fault for not amending the statute to make an exception once it was known there were prosecutions for it.

  5. “Austin Yabandith won’t go to prison or register as a sex offender. But his mistreatment isn’t over yet.”

    “He is the one in danger?in danger of being branded a sex offender for engaging in perfectly normal teen behavior.”

    You’re not talking about using his picture with this article, are you.

    Did that image come from his Facebook page?

    Maybe he wants his picture in the media to help clear his name because of previous negative coverage elsewhere. Maybe his attorneys advised him that getting his image out there was a good idea. I’m sure you got his permission. That would certainly make it okay.

    If it were me, I’d want it all to be forgotten, and I certainly wouldn’t want my face on the internet associated with these charges forever–even if the charges were bogus.

    1. Did that image come from his Facebook page?

      According to the photo credit, yes.

      I’m sure you got his permission.

      Anything you do in public isn’t private.

      1. One of the great things about libertarians is that we don’t need laws to tell us right from wrong.

      2. I mean, regardless of whether it’s legal, it’s kind of funny* to write about how the poor kid has been unnecessarily stigmatized by this–and then use his picture–isn’t it?

        I’ve read this site gets 4 million visits per month. Google his name, and I bet this article shows up near the top.

        * funny “Huh?” not funny “Ha Ha”.

        1. This article, which argues that he did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve any punishment and that the charges should be entirely dropped? Boy, it would sure be a shame to see such an article popping up on google searches for his name.

          1. Oh yeah, and maybe he wants that. Maybe they got permission to use his picture, too.

            I wouldn’t want people making decisions like that for me without my input, though. I’d rather make choices like that for myself.

            That’s my working definition of a libertarian, by the way. Someone who thinks people should be free to make choices for themselves. It might be someone who respects other people’s right to make choices for themselves, too.

    2. Maybe the rule should be: let the prosecutor who has never looked at porn (of any sort) before his 18th birthday be the one to cast the first stone.

  6. Puritanical BS. These people seem to think that teenager’s hormones (and sexual ability) activate only on their 17th birthday. It’s delusional.

  7. Meanwhile this autistic pig took these phones with underage porn on them home and spent weekends whacking it with a thumb up his ass. All while plotting to ruin the same kids’ lives. Tell me again how pigs are heroes and I need to back the blue?

    1. I actually kinda feel bad for them. They’re running out of real crimes to chase after every day. This is all they got.

      1. Superior WI has the worst potholes and general road maintenance. It sounds like they could lay off some of their police and invest that money back into municipal infrastructure.

  8. he’s not allowed to see his friends, stay out past 9:00 p.m., use a computer, or even attend school.

    “Cruel and unusual punishment”

  9. School officials eventually learned that students were sexting each other, and the school resource officer, Tom Johnson, leapt into action

    *chortles*

    1. You might say he stood at attention.

      1. Worked tirelessly to penetrate the teen sexting ring?

        1. I’m sure he got to the bottom of it.

  10. A felony? The state needs some kind of Romeo-and-Juliet law so if there’s less than a 5-year age difference, it won’t be a felony.

    And even if it’s a misdemeanor, if the kids are in school, then suspending them for an appropriate period would be a better response than clogging up the courts.

    1. NB – “Romeo and Juliet law” is actually a misnomer because Romeo and Juliet got married before they started “doing it” (in the Shakespearian sense)

    2. The state needs some sort of “is it really a felony?” law where the generalities of the case are explained to five random people on the street and can only proceed as a felony if at least four of them agree that “yeah, that’s definitely a felony.”

      1. How about 12 out of 23?

        We could call it a grand jury.

        1. A grand jury knows the details of the case, and is therefore too “in on it” with the prosecutor. No personal details – just “here’s a thing that happened, is this a felony?”

          1. I don’t see how the 5-person panel would be any better than the 23-person panel, in practice.

            Without proper civic consciousness, common sense, and courage, any panel of citizens could end up as a rubber stamp for the authorities.

            So in the end, it comes down to raising the consciousness of citizens so in case they’re on a jury or grand jury they’re ready from Day One to wield the powers they have in order to do justice.

            1. As best as I could figure from a quick search, Wisconsin rarely uses grand juries, instead there’s a “preliminary hearing” before a judge in which the judge determines whether there’s probable cause. It seems this youth waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

              So apparently the case was never run by a panel of normal people to decide if the youth should be charged as a felon.

              In fact, it seems that thanks to his plea, his case will never be examined by any kind of jury, whether grand jury or trial jury.

              If only there were some kind of constitutional provision requiring the states to respect the privileges and immunities of American citizenship, this might all have been avoided.

              1. Also, 3 out of 5 folks on the street are likely to say ‘shoulda thought of that before you send nudie pics, perv, serves ya right’ and fry the kid.
                Common sense is more and more uncommon.

  11. What the hell is wrong with people? Seriously, do they never remember themselves as a teenager?

    Also, what jury would ever convict on this?

    1. A jury that has been browbeaten by the judge, the prosecutor and all the rest of the system to believe that they HAVE to convict if the kid technically broke a law. Even if there was no malice or intent.

      You don’t think the system is going to let 12 rubes think for themselves do you? Why they could wreck the results of their perfect system.

      1. If it’s your kid, would you risk jail time? Most wouldn’t.

    2. A jury full of people stupid enough to get approved by the prosecuting attorney.

  12. The authorities in this case have shown a willingness to be practical and consider what’s best for Austin

    Whut?

    1. (from my reading of the article, it seems like exactly one “authority” has acted in this kid’s best interest – the judge who vacated the conviction)

  13. And here I thought only the Social Conservatives would go down in history as smug ignorant fucks.

    The more the merrier.

    1. “And here I thought only the Social Conservatives would go down in history as smug ignorant fucks.”

      Where on earth did you get that idea, have you been blocking your news feed or something?

      1. My own smug must block out Bolshevism, or perhaps my brain consigned them to the wastebin of history.

        Social Conservatives are wealthy and healthy.

        1. I haven’t done the research, but I wonder what would have happened back in the day in some “social conservative” hellhole, where the local schoolkids were boning and taking daguerrotypes of each other. There would have been some suspensions and some corporal punishment, maybe a shotgun wedding, but felony charges?

  14. If used as an adjective, shouldn’t it be teenaged? And I really wish that 18-year-old people would be either men/women or teens and not have it depend on whether or not they’re supposed to be a sympathetic figure.

  15. Hey, Reason, this youth was held to answer for an infamous crime without having been indicted or presented by a grand jury. If the states were required to obey the Bill of Rights, this wouldn’t have happened (see the 5th Amendment), but the US Supreme Court has been selective with respect to applying the Bill of Rights to the states.

    So long as we accept that the Supremes can pick and choose which parts of the Bill of Rights the states have to obey, then there will always be pressure to exempt the states from obeying, say, the Second Amendment. That was what the Supremes did before 2010, and they could go back to that at any time.

  16. I blame the music kids are listening to these days. This is what got the girls hot in my day.

    1. I am disappoint. Was hoping for Sexxlaws.

  17. RE: The State Has Stopped Trying to Wreck a Teenage Boy’s Life Because He Sexted His Girlfriend (For Now)
    Austin Yabandith won’t go to prison or register as a sex offender. But his mistreatment isn’t over yet.

    He must be a pervert because since when do teenage boys think about sex?
    Thank God we have The State monitoring all our phones, computers, etc to punish the wicked, the profane and the doubters.

  18. I honestly cannot understand how the first meeting with the local DA didn’t end up on the nightly news….

    The kid is a minor. He’s brought in with his parents to the DA’s office where it is explained felony charges will be filed for “possession of child pornography, sexual assault of a child, and sexual exploitation.”

    How does that not end in violence? How do the parents not lose their shit? Was their an armed officer standing guard during this meeting? Was there an implicit threat of government force to keep the parent’s passive?

    I simply cannot understand why this kind of stuff happens and there hasn’t been at least one epic conflagration resulting from it.

    1. Nevermind…I went back and read the initial story on this. No father in the picture. Just mother and sibling., lower income family.

      That explains it. DA went after easy meat.

  19. “Austin and Kim … were engaged in a consensual sexual relationship, and had the blessing of Kim’s parents?they even supplied the couple with birth control.”

    WHY DIDNT THE GIRLS I KNEW IN HIGH SCHOOL HAVE PARENTS LIKE THIS.

    1. C’mon, the only girls you knew in high school were models working in Canada.

    2. WHY DIDNT THE GIRLS I KNEW IN HIGH SCHOOL HAVE PARENTS LIKE THIS.

      Because their parents were too strict. Or too lenient. I forget which way it works with reactionary hyper-puritanism. Anyway, they didn’t administer the exact right amount of discipline and guidance.

  20. His conviction was “vacated”, but he will be re-sentenced “in accordance with” it anyway? How does that work?

    1. I had the same question.

  21. I shouldn’t read these stories because they make my blood boil. I have rage at the fucking cops, prosecutors, the schools, the whole fucking pieces of shit that make up the government. My heart aches at what that boy is going through.

    My son is 14 and a freshman in high school. His birthday is in the summer so he’s younger than most of his friends. I guess he’s lucky – he and his best friend could be doing this shit when they’re seniors, and his friend goes to hell while nothing happens to him.

    Fountains of rage. I don’t know what I would do if I was the parent of that boy.

    1. The worst part is the whole experience will make the kid grow up to vote Democrat.

  22. This is just further proof of government’s War On Heterosexual Self-Selection.

  23. This makes perfect sense because the state has to have their pound of flesh from this boy.

    That and prosecutors have to make sure that they maintain their image of being hard on sexcrime so they can make sure to be reelected for another term.

    I’m almost willing to ignite the nuclear firecracker just so I would know that these other sad excuses of sentience would die with me.

  24. whaddya speck? The SCHOOLS teach and encourage children from very early to experiment, explore, experience it all. Some of them DO it, and they alluvvasudden have “criminals” on their hands.

    If I were he, I’d consider bringing charges against the schools he attended for corrupting him…..

  25. up to I saw the paycheck which had said $8845 , I have faith that my friends brother woz like actualy erning money part-time on their apple labtop. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only 7 months and resently took care of the morgage on there mini mansion and bought themselves a Lancia . view it now….

    ========http://www.joinpay40.com

  26. Wonder why so many have problems voting in state, county and city elections? I believe the majority of office seekers have less interest in fairness, justice and honesty than in their power, their wealth and their re:election. Difficult to figure out their motives. The War On Drugs has too often been ineffectual in some quarters but an important asset in politician’s self enrichment. Same with sex. Civil asset forfeiture is in many. many cases an admitted source of local government income, whatever the effectiveness of the seizure.

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