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Iowa Prosecutor Who Threatened to Treat Girl's Selfies As Child Porn Backs Down

Marion County Attorney Ed Bull promises not to prosecute a teenager who took pictures of herself in her underwear.

Marion County Attorney's OfficeMarion County Attorney's OfficeYesterday the ACLU of Iowa announced that Marion County Attorney Ed Bull, who last year threatened to prosecute a teenager for producing child pornography by using her phone to take pictures of herself in her underwear, has promised not to bring charges. In exchange, the ACLU has withdrawn the lawsuit it filed on behalf of the girl's parents in November.

Although Bull lost the fight he picked with a 14-year-old girl, the CBS station in Des Moines reports, he has no regrets:

Bull was unrepentant...

"As county attorney, it is my job to pursue justice. Nothing can or will change that," he said. "I will put the ACLU's dismissal papers in my file and go right back to work serving my community."

If Bull truly believes that threatening a girl with prison and lifelong registration as a sex offender over a couple of risqué selfies has anything to do with justice, he is demonstrably unqualified for his job. According to the ACLU lawsuit, Bull told the girl she could avoid prosecution only if she participated in "a pretrial diversion program wherein she must discuss why her conduct was wrong, sign a statement of admission as to her alleged conduct, listen to how she could potentially have to register as a sex offender for life, and give up her laptop and cell phone for an unspecified period of time."

The TV station says Bull was trying to teach the girl an important lesson about "the life-altering consequences that could arise from being labeled as a sex offender." Since he was the one threatening to label her as a sex offender, this exercise was rather like burning down a kid's house to teach him the danger of playing with matches. If Bull had stayed out of what should have been a family matter, there would have been no need for the girl to worry that an adolescent indiscretion might ruin her life.

"As a policy matter," says Rita Bettis, the ACLU of Iowa's legal director, "it's bewildering that a county attorney would threaten to put a child in jail or prison or place her on the sex offender registry for taking a picture of herself." The case, which Robby Soave covered here last fall, is also bewildering as a legal matter, since the pictures at issue did not qualify as child pornography under Iowa law.

According to the lawsuit, one photo showed the girl "from the waist up, hair entirely covering her breasts and dressed in boy shorts." The other picture showed her "standing upright, clad in the same boy shorts and wearing a sports bra." The statute defining "sexual exploitation of a minor," the charge that Bull threatened to bring, requires "a prohibited sexual act," which includes prurient nudity only when it involves exposure of breasts, genitals, or buttocks.

In other words, this was not a case where a prudish prosecutor was applying the letter of the law too strictly. It was a case where a prudish prosecutor was twisting the law to give himself license to meddle in matters that were none of his business. Since the photos were perfectly legal, Bull's bullying was also a First Amendment violation.

Even if the pictures qualified as child pornography in Iowa, it defies logic to say a teenager can be guilty of sexually exploiting herself. That mind-boggling notion illustrates the unjust, irrational, and unconstitutional consequences of the pedophilia panic that prevents prosecutors like Bull and the legislators who empower them from thinking straight.

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  • Jerryskids||

    I'd bet you a hundred bucks that guy's got child pornography on his computer. Besides the selfies of the 14-year old in the story, I mean.

  • KWlib||

    You hit the nail on the head.

    These pictures qualified a porn (in his mind) because he jerked off over them to self-completion.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Well he fits my definition of child molester. I bet this asshole gets re-elected because, you know, for the children.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Haha, yeah. I saw his picture and immediately thought, "Oh, he fucks kids."

  • reasontert||

    "a pretrial diversion program wherein she must discuss why her conduct was wrong, sign a statement of admission as to her alleged conduct, listen to how she could potentially have to register as a sex offender for life, and....."

    Yeah, he's a sick fuck who's getting off on a power trip over the girl. He wants to be in a room with her where they can talk at length about her pictures and how naughty she is for taking such dirty, dirty pictures.

  • ||

    No doubt this pedophile collects child porn like crusty collects orders of protection

  • Dillinger||

    the fuck else is he supposed to collect shots of teenage chicks in their undies?

  • Cloudbuster||

    Maybe by Googling "teenage chicks in undies?" Just throwin' that out there.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    In exchange, the ACLU has withdrawn the lawsuit it filed on behalf of the girl's parents in November.

    WTF. If this is an actual deal, if he exchanged an attempt at a righteous prosecution to stop litigation, then this attorney either knew it wasn't a righteous prosecution or he's a craven hack. Well, at least he got to view the evidence for a while.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Die in a Fire asshole.

  • Get To Da Chippah||

    Just don't be in a rush over it. If possible, I'd like to have him sit in a fire long enough to starve to death while burning.

  • Mongo||

    Iowa is the Cornponestan that successfully prosecuted a freethinker for manga child porn a few years ago.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    As someone who has read a metric fuckton of manga-porn, I can understand why people could easily be disturbed enough by it to prosecute a collector. Lolicon hentai is some weird shit. Throw in some bestiality, dismemberment, and tentacle insertion, and perfectly sane people are going to overreact.

    I think prosecuting for ownership of the stuff is wrong, mind. But I also think the impulse is understandable.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Could this idiot have been any more aptly named?

    I'm assuming, of course, that his ancestors from the Old Country weren't actually named Bullshitter, and it was shortened to just plain "Bull" for some bureaucrat's convenience.

    Either way, the guy should run for higher office. Either major party would suit him.

  • Kevin47||

    He was probably hoping to get her to put out in exchange for leniency.

  • ||

    "As county attorney, it is my job to pursue justice. Nothing can or will change that," he said. "I will put the ACLU's dismissal papers in my file and go right back to work serving my community."

    What Bull!

  • Ken Hagler||

    "Even if the pictures qualified as child pornography in Iowa, it defies logic to say a teenager can be guilty of sexually exploiting herself."

    Well of course it does. Logic has nothing to do with Shariah laws.

  • ||

    It's assholes like this that give justice and humanism a bad name.

    Sullum is correct. I fail to see how a kid who takes racey pictures should be criminalized.

    People like Bull are degenerates for wanting to destroy lives in this manner.

  • Longtobefree||

    "In exchange, the ACLU has withdrawn the lawsuit it filed on behalf of the girl's parents in November."
    WHY!!???
    Until these lawsuits are pressed to a full completion and the overbearing idiots held personally accountable for the outrage to both that girl and the law, this nation cannot claim to be a nation of laws.

    Can we pretend he is in collage and file a Title IX against him? What he did would certainly get him branded a sexual predator for life in that arena.

  • croaker||

    The lawsuit would have been dismissed as moot in any event.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Check out Moot the Hopple, J.D.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    Prosecutors have absolute immunity for their job duties. That's even more expansive than qualified immunity that cops get. Even if it can be proven that they knew their conduct was in violation of the defendant's civil rights, they can't be held personally liable in a lawsuit. (In theory the feds can prosecute them, but ha ha ha ha if you believe that will actually happen)

    I agree though, something needs to be done about prosecutors being able to get a free play, bringing (or threatening to bring) any charges they please with the option of dropping them with no consequences if it appears they will lose in court.

  • Finrod||

    At this point, about the only thing that can be done about rogue prosecutors is to hire some muscle to drag them into a back alley and beat them within an inch of their life while letting them know that There Are Consequences for bringing bullshit charges against children.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Is this because sex crimes have increasingly become the hot focus of the media and police? Certainly in Seattle you hear about sex trafficking and such things almost every day. You see it on billboards and on the news.

    Is this increasingly stupid criminalization of activity like in this article a reaction to this? Is it that sex crimes are the thing now, and so you better find sex crimes to prosecute. They need to create crimes to fit the crisis.

  • creech||

    Here in Penna. it's sex trafficking and opioid crisis. This week, the Drug War claimed 6 victims (you probably heard about the four kids killed by two drug dealers) but all "the man on the street" wants is more crackdowns on dealers and users.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "Sex trafficking" has become so common, so pernicious, that is occurring on every street corner, in every Walmart. And yet prosecutors struggle to find a teenager goofing around in her underwear to justify their budget.

  • antiestablismentarianism||

    LOVE this comment!!! If it really was happening "everywhere" and it was truly an epidemic as they claim, we wouldn't be reading about ridiculous cases like this every single day in the news. Well said!

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    It's the same with every supposed crisis.

    1. More money for law enforcement, prosecutors, and prisons.
    2. More power for law enforcement, prosecutors, and politicians (with concomitant erosion of those pesky civil rights obstacles).
    3. More material to brag about "protecting the community from weirdos" on flyers and mailings come election time.

  • DenverJ||

    Christ, what an asshole. He should be prosecuted for violating her civil rights under color of authority, or whatever Iowa law calls it. How the hell did his office even get involved?

  • SIV||

    What kind of sick monster would object to wholesome pictures of chicks in their underwear

  • Robert||

    Emblematic of the deliberately contradictory directions society goes in. Sublation, I guess you could call it if you were Hegelian.

    They want to make it desirable & evil at the same time. The more desirable, the more evil, & the more evil, the more desirable.

  • Adans smith||

    This idiot ever been to a beach or public pool ?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I tend not to trust people who are driven to 'serve their community'.

  • Adans smith||

    +1 'the greater good' ?

  • MotörSteve||

    And this motherfucker is only one county over from me. I'm sure someplace over there sells woodchippers......

  • Branded Man||

    Well that's what people get for living in Pella...

  • DaveSs||

    IIRC the girl lived in Knoxville

  • Tom Bombadil||

    That facial hair alone should require sex offender registry.

  • reasontert||

    Dude looks like he's wearing two Bluetooth earpieces in the thumbnail. Double-douchebag.

  • Jacks61||

    What is wrong with this hack? He reviewed the photos, got wood and declared it must be porn? The only lesson here is the town/city should try and remove this "lawyer" from office. What an absolute waste.

  • Jacks61||

    What is wrong with this hack? He reviewed the photos, got wood and declared it must be porn? The only lesson here is the town/city should try and remove this "lawyer" from office. What an absolute waste.

  • IceTrey||

    I can't even begin to understand a mindset like that.

  • Sevo||

    "Bull was unrepentant...
    "As county attorney, it is my job to pursue justice. Nothing can or will change that," he said. "I will put the ACLU's dismissal papers in my file and go right back to work serving my community."

    That's a shame. Perhaps the ACLU suits could require an admission of stupidity.

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

  • Sevo||

    "According to the report, an employee did not properly wash their hands before donning new gloves to prepare food. Officials also reported food held longer than seven days and food debris inside reach-in coolers.
    That's it? That's the great scandal?"

    FuNNNY!

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Video is hilarious but I ended up searching Waffle House fights on youtube. Thanks for wasting a couple hours of my life I'll never get back. I did not know this was a genre.

  • wspackman||

    There is another subtle revelation here which we need to come to grips with. This exhibitionism is taking place voluntarily on the part of the teen. In fact, the girl knowingly took risks and broke boundaries in order to express her sexuality. Nobody coerced her. Nobody exploited her. That is until the prosecutor came along.

    It makes me sick to my stomach to think of the harm that prosecutor did to this girl. He turned her own biology into an enemy. He wielded the power of the state against this girl to send the message that her desires, her agency over her body and her sexuality were somehow wrong, immoral and shameful. Those are scars that are real and that will likely have an incredibly profound effect on her for life. When we talk about the life long scars of sexual exploitation lets start being honest about whose inflicting those scars.

  • Crusty Juggler - Double Great||

    Remember, you don't own your body.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Good point.

  • Crusty Juggler - Double Great||

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Advocates for sexual assault victims expressed some concern on Friday about the settlement of Mr. Nungesser's suit.

    "I hope that schools don't interpret this as a sign that they should be cracking down on student activism," said Dana Bolger, a founder of the organization Know Your IX, which is focused on ending sexual violence on college campuses.

    She added, "Especially now as we see some retrenchment from the current administration, it's more important than ever that student speech is allowed to thrive on campuses."

    So granting academic awards to an individual for slandering a person the university admits is innocent of the crimes he was accused of allows student speech to thrive but questioning the process is retrenchment?

  • Finrod||

    Rape "victims" that make up bullshit because of regrets should have the right to have their bullshit charges prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  • Crusty Juggler - Double Great||

    SHARIAH IS COMING TO AMERICA!

  • ||

    This dude looks like a fucking pedophile. Probably fucks sheep's too. I bet he spent hours reviewing the "evidence"

    Why are there so mAny pedophiles in law enforcement?

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    There is no indisputable evidence that he fucks sheep without their consent.

  • ||

    Why are there so mAny pedophiles in law enforcement?

    Ever seen A Touch of Evil?

  • Crusty Juggler - Double Great||

    Yes, and that's why I don't smoke the marijuana.

  • ||

    Crusty smoker those tube monsters

  • esteve7||

    Why do robbers rob banks?

    That's where the money is at

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    "As county attorney, it is my job to pursue justice. Nothing can or will change that," he said. "I will put the ACLU's dismissal papers in my file and go right back to work serving my community."

    This makes no sense. He either (a) threatened a minor with prosecution and lifelong sex offender status without any justification, or (b) allowed a left-wing organization of outsiders to bully him into letting a horrible, community-threatening crime go unpunished.

    Neither one seems very flattering.

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