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Cops Charge 13-Year-Old Girl, 14-Year-Old Boy with Crimes for Sexting

Boy faces child porn distribution charges, girl faces lesser charge of sexting.

KidDtiberio / DreamstimeA 14-year-old boy from Barrington, Rhode Island, has been charged with distributing child pornography after he shared inappropriate pictures of a 13-year-old female classmate with friends. The girl has also been charged—albeit with the lesser crime of disseminating indecent material.

The two teens swapped nude photos of themselves using Snapchat, according to eastbayRI.com. The boy then saved the images, showed his friends, and even created a fake Snapchat account in the girl's name. One of the girl's classmates saw the account and alerted authorities at Barrington High School, including School Resource Officer Josh Melo. Earlier this month, the police charged the boy with felony distribution of child pornography and cyberstalking, and the girl with the minor offense of "sexting."

What the boy did was very bad, and "cyberstalking" might technically fit the bill here, given the fake account. But it still seems harsh to threaten a 14-year-old with jail time and registry on the sex offender list. What he did was wrong, but it's hard to argue he's a predator, or a danger to other kids.

In an op-ed for The Providence Journal, attorney John Grasso wrote that the police could have charged the boy with sexting instead of child pornography, as they did with the girl.

If convicted, the boy will be a felon and a registered sex offender — everlasting consequences that I suspect this boy was unaware of when he allegedly decided to use cyberspace to pass around sexually explicit photographs of a girl his same age to other kids his age. ...

Sexting exists as an option to law enforcement when the police decide to exercise discretion. Child pornography is a felony that puts jail on the table. Sexting is a status offense. Kids who commit status offenses don't go to jail. Child pornography requires sex offender registration. Sexting specifically does not. Child pornography is the very deep end of the cyberspace quicksand.

The girl is getting off easier, with the sexting charge. But charging her at all seems like a grave mistake. The only real wrong here was the fake account, and the pictures being shared without permission. The boy did that—the girl was just the victim.

Melo, the school resource officer, did not respond to a request for comment, but told eastbayRI.com this:

Officer Melo said there are Barrington Middle School students who have social media accounts and share information with more than 1,000 "friends." He said it is very likely that the local students only know a few hundred of the contacts and could be communicating with other individuals who are dangerous.

"We know sex offenders are using these apps to talk to young kids," said Officer Melo. "People are trying to befriend the kids online."

This notion—that the internet is a particularly dangerous place where sex offenders are constantly targeting and grooming children—is a classic example of a moral panic. The sex offender registry is full of people who didn't actually commit sex-related crimes (like the boy in this story), and sex offenders have lower recidivism rates than just about any other group of criminals. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "The single age with the greatest number of offenders from the perspective of law enforcement was age 14." That's because there are many kids getting in trouble for having sex with kids, and fewer adults.

Our zeal to punish kids for inappropriate but perfectly normal teen behavior doesn't make them safer from sex offenders—it turns them in to sex offenders. That's something everyone should keep in mind, especially given the public's current enthusiasm for putting more cops in schools as part of a noble but misguided effort to prevent mass shootings.

Photo Credit: Dtiberio / Dreamstime

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  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    A 14-year-old boy from Barrington, Rhode Island, has been charged with distributing child pornography after he shared inappropriate pictures of a 13-year-old female classmate with friends.

    Good. One would hope that eventually kids will learn to be a little less retarded.

  • SQRLSY One||

    So kids will be jailed for offenses that adults are not punished for, generally. Kids' brains are not yet mature, and we are holding them to HIGHER standards than adults are held to! WHERE has common sense and justice gone?!?!?

  • Don't look at me.||

    The is no common sense when sex and the human body is concerned . Everyone knows both are filthy and disgusting.

  • 1980-f||

    When we have the technology to download our brains into computers, all that nasty, gooey sex stuff will just go away. Won't that be wonderful?

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    WTF you talking about. An adult would be punished far more severely for distributing naked images of a 13 year old girl than this kid is.

  • NoVaNick||

    I dated a couple of RI women years ago-one had had an abortion by the time she was 15, the other had photos of her taken while she was nude and passed out at a party, so ya get the point. Ocean Staters are pervs who must be protected from themselves.

  • Carter Mitchell||

    But when will the "adults" (Sparky) become any less retarded? I'm not holding my breath.

  • $park¥ leftist poser||

    The boy then saved the images, showed his friends, and even created a fake Snapchat account in the girl's name.

    Sounds like a Grade A douchebag in the making.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    If we throw enough of these children in juvie, this will stop.

  • 1980-f||

    Prevention being better than cure, all children must spend two years in prison before age 16. It's for their own benefit.

  • MichaeI Hihn||

    Our zeal to punish kids for inappropriate but perfectly normal teen behavior doesn't make them safer from sex offenders—it turns them in to sex offenders.


    You'd think there must be a law somewhere that hasn't done the opposite of what it stated on the tin. We wouldn't consistently put up with a method of social order that failed every time to fulfill the duty with which it was tasked. Right?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    You have to look at old laws, laws that have been around since before WWI at least. You might find one or two that way.

  • LarryA||

    "We know sex offenders are using these apps to talk to young kids," said Officer Melo. "People are trying to befriend the kids online."

    The boy would have been in less danger in the clutches of an internet sex offender than he is in the cuffs of the "justice" system, and would have had a much better chance to recover and lead a normal life.

  • 1980-f||

    Oh dear. You said something wrong there. Truthful and accurate. But wrong.

  • Sevo||

    Wonder if any of the cops played "doctor" when they were kids.

  • sarcasmic||

    Kids? Try adults. "Suck my dick if you don't want to go to jail."

  • ||

    and the pictures being shared without permission

    To be sure. Of course, police don't exactly have to get permission to view these photos because reasons. Also, if police take my mug shot or bodycam footage of me, they don't really have to get permission there either. Oh, and since the police don't generally publish things as widely as the media they can sort of grant permission by proxy there as well. Actually, all those third-party 'cell phone witnesses' to crimes are exempt as well.

    I suppose we might surmise from the use of snapchat that the sharing went against intent, but this whole notion of 'photos can never be shared without permission de facto and under penalty of law' seems problematic.

  • JohnTheRevelator||

    I save these articles to show my pre-teen when she starts whining about how I won't let her have social media.

  • ||

    Right, because in all the scandal, immorality, and inappropriateness going on here Snapchat is the bad guy.

    Your handle says JohnTheRevelator, but I can only assume you're a woman and you have yet to remove the plinth from your own eye.

    "Take photos of yourself naked, send them via email to all your friends, have naked fun time off in person and in places unknown but, FOR GOD'S SAKE!, don't post it on social media." /sarc

  • Raoul Duke||

    Aren't we're the goddamned adults in situations like this? Isn't there SOME way that maybe we could differentiate between serial rapists and 14 year olds who like looking at boobs? Registries are questionable at best, but I guess I'd rather know if the Zodiac Killer moved in next door than a teenager who once showed his friends some naked pics that he shouldn't have shared.

    Holy shit are we dumb.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Registries are unconstitutional too. There is zero authority to force people off probation or parole from having to tell police where they live, limit where they can live, and limit other activity banned by the state.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Explain how the parents or other adults could have prevented this. Short of taking away the phone from the kids (which there's no indication they had prior reason to do) or 24/7 supervision.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, one way we could tell the difference is to lock up the dangerous ones, and let the others loose. And leave the ones we let loose alone.

  • Longtobefree||

    "The girl is getting off easier, with the sexting charge. But charging her at all seems like a grave mistake. The only real wrong here was the fake account, and the pictures being shared without permission. The boy did that—the girl was just the victim."

    Uh, if a gun manufacturer is liable for 'gun violence', and a vehicle manufacturer is liable for traffic deaths, and bars are responsible for drunk driving, the girl is responsible for what happens to a picture she took.
    It is not like the guy took the picture, he just shared it. Like a 'journalist' sharing a feloniously leaked CIA memo, sort of.

    Yeah, that's it. Hey, kid. claim you are a journalist investigating child porn. First amendment and all that.

  • Max S.||

    Why aren't the cops out looking for real bad guys like potential school shooters or gangbangers?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    1. There are way more cops than real bad guys.
    2. Real bad guys like potential school shooters are dangerous and the cops might get hurt going after them.

  • ||

    3. Even with a overwhelming odds in favor of police and private citizens as well a low-level law enforcement entities pointing to potential shooters and gangbangers, it's easier to sit at a desk and make a list than pretty much any other course of action.

  • StackOfCoins||

    4. Get a legal reason to look at a 13-year-old with her clothes off.

  • 1980-f||

    Cops are not like other people. They cannot be corrupted, morally or otherwise, and having them looking at porn is for the good of society.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    "What the boy did was very bad...."

    Bad because he distributed nude pictures of a fellow teenager?

    If they only had this technology when I was a kid, my peers would have never gone to school because of all the porn distribution.

    Plus, these kids will probably have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. (Which is unconstitutional anyway).

  • ||

    If they only had this technology when I was a kid, my peers would have never gone to school because of all the porn distribution.

    I would've assumed school attendance would've gone up significantly. Directly for the porn exchange and consumption, but presumably also because of indirect effects of porn consumption on pregnancy.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I would think so many boys in my school would be jacking off they would not have the time or energy to attend school.

    In my day, it was not easy to get porn, so you had to try to get with girls at school.

  • ||

    In my day, it was not easy to get porn, so you had to try to get with girls at school.

    I suppose it has a bit to do with when and where you grew up. You could certainly interact with your peers outside school but it was uncommon and laborious to do. School was the Facebook/Social Media platform of the day.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Plus, these kids will probably have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives. (Which is unconstitutional anyway).

    How is that unconstitutional? At the time of the Constitution and Bill of Rights ratification, there was a death penalty for lesser crimes.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Bad because he distributed nude pictures of a fellow teenager?

    You really don't see what he did wrong here? Seriously? There's this concept called consent that you don't seem to be taking into account.

  • Eidde||

    I'd say that sexting by a kid should be dealt with for a misdemeanor, and felony charges should be reserved for adults who exploit children (including disseminating naked photos to excite sexual interest).

    The whole offender registry thing is irritating - why not a burglars' registry, etc?

    Also, isn't it great how the government throws the book at people and puts them on registries, then turns around and sues employers for taking the government seriously about how dangerous these convicted felons are - because if the private sector actually believes the government, it's racist or something.

  • Eidde||

  • StackOfCoins||

    I'd say that sexting by a kid should be dealt with for a misdemeanor, and felony charges should be reserved for adults who exploit children (including disseminating naked photos to excite sexual interest).
    Devil's advocate here. Why the double standard?

    A kid that photographs themselves naked and sends it to a boy is "disseminating (a) naked photos to excite sexual interest". That is, after all, the rationale sex warriors are using.

    Also, isn't it great how the government throws the book at people and puts them on registries, then turns around and sues employers for taking the government seriously about how dangerous these convicted felons are - because if the private sector actually believes the government, it's racist or something.

    Easier to placate the masses with token retributions, than get out of the racket of criminalizing everything and promoting hysteria.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why is it a crime of child pronography to photograph your teenage-self and then send it to another teenager you want to sent it to?

    Because the Puritanical Nanny-Staters are insane.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    Not insane at all. Prosecutors who don't crack down on child sex crime don't get reelected. The fact that the kids' lives get destroyed in the process is just collateral damage and much less important than a prosecutor's career.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    If nobody went after kids for those crimes, the voters would not be the wiser.

    Prosecutors think big arrest stats get them elected.

    Sometimes that is correct but unreasonablness in prosecutions also get DA's unelected.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Because the child pornography laws were written in a time when there wasn't any simple and easy way to take a picture of yourself and send it to someone else. In fact, not only did cell phone not exist back then, but neither did digital cameras or email or even television.

    But they were insane puritanical nanny-staters because they couldn't predict the eventual development of smart phones.

  • NoVaNick||

    When I was 14, my friend who lived a few houses over encouraged me to check out his older sister changing-her bedroom looked out towards my yard. Good thing all we had were binoculars back then.

  • 1980-f||

    Did you not wonder, just a little, about your friend?

  • Empress Trudy||

    Of course it's silly and stupid but teenagers today are in fact the most brittle brained narrow minded literal rules quoting blockheads in the history of people. They'd be the first ones screaming to burn people alive for littering. So fuck them. These are the rules and this is the world you retards are telling us you want to live in.

  • The Metonymy||

    I'd like to think the upcoming generation.will be more like Benjamin Spooner. telling us to shove the tab for unfunded liabilities up our asses.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    The "upcoming generation" will probably be mostly from outside the US.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Every generation ever was mostly from outside the US.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Wrong.

  • Cloudbuster||

    Well, OK, not if we're talking globally.

  • Emotional Opposition Animal||

    We should seriously consider banning minors, at least younger ones, from use of the Internet. There are just too many ways for them to get themselves in trouble that they don't understand yet.

  • jerryg1018||

    "The sex offender registry is full of people who didn't actually commit sex-related crimes (like the boy in this story)"

    If the names of "sex offenders" who are not pedophiles were removed from the sex offender registries they would be about a half page long. A CT legislator spent five years getting a sex offender registry law enacted and several more creating the on-line registry which amounted to about a half page. Faced with overwhelming criticism for wasting time and money the legislature responded by adding adult sex crimes to the list. Even then it was pitifully small. At one point the legislature considered going back 50 years and adding the names of persons convicted of various offenses such as public urination, public exposure to the list. Fortunately wiser heads prevailed.

    When my son and his family moved to NC my daughter-in-law decided to check that state's registry and lo and behold an address popped up two doors down the street. She was ready to cancel the home purchase when it turned out that person had been arrested for the formerly misdemeanor crime of public urination as a teenager.

  • MaleMatters||

    This is how you turn a normal 14-year-old boy into a mass killer. This is no way to treat a child. See the brand-new, stunning book by Warren Farrell, "The Boy Crisis."

  • tommhan||

    GEEZE!!!

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