Courts & Crime

Prosecutor drops felony child porn charges in 'sexting' case

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A juvenile prosecutor has amended felony charges against three Chinook Middle School students stemming from an alleged "sexting" incident to gross misdemeanor charges of telephone harassment during a court hearing Wednesday.

The lesser, misdemeanor charges will be dismissed, provided that all three students complete a juvenile diversion program, Thurston County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Peters said during a hearing in juvenile court.

The three students had all initially faced felony charges of dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Anyone convicted of that offense automatically is required to register as a sex offender.

Thurston County Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Peters has acknowledged that Washington law is lagging behind the technology currently available to teens who engage in "sexting" - the practice of sending sexually inappropriate photos of their peers via cell phones and computers.

Washington law currently does not have a crime on the books to specifically address "sexting." However, Peters noted during Wednesday's court hearing that the three Chinook students' alleged behavior did fit the felony charge of dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

The students were initially charged in late January with dealing in depictions of child pornography after they allegedly sent nude photos of a 14-year-old girl via their cell phones. The nude photo was initially taken in a mirror by the 14-year-old girl, and sent to the youngster's boyfriend via her cell phone.

The boyfriend sent the photo to a peer after the couple broke up. According to Lacey police and parents, the photo then spread like wildfire among students.

The young man, age 14; and two 13-year-old girls, were charged with dealing in depictions of child pornography after they sent the photo via their cell phones, according to prosecutors.

Peters amended the three youngsters' charges to gross misdemeanor telephone harassment charges during a hearing Wednesday before Thurston County Superior Court Commissioner Christine Schaller.

Read the full story at theolympian.com

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