BY ERIN L. NISSLEY
Published: Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Updated: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 2:20 PM EDT
Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. cannot charge three teenage girls who appeared in photographs seminude traded by classmates last year, a judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge James M. Munley granted a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to temporarily stop Mr. Skumanick from filing felony charges against the Tunkhannock Area School District students.
"We're grateful the judge recognized that prosecuting these girls ... raises serious constitutional issues," ACLU attorney Witold J. Walczak said.
The ACLU lawsuit argues the photographs in which the girls appear are not pornographic and should be protected under the First Amendment.
About 20 teens were threatened with child pornography charges after Tunkhannock Area School District officials discovered nude or seminude photographs on cell phones confiscated from students.
Called "sexting," the phenomenon of sending and trading provocative photos via cell phone has cropped up all over the country and landed other teens in trouble with the law. Seven teens in Greensburg, Pa., were charged with child pornography in February for sending and receiving seminude photos. A teen in Newark, Ohio, was charged after she sent provocative photos of herself to friends.
In the Tunkhannock case, Mr. Skumanick told teens they could avoid prosecution if they signed up for a five-week educational program. The three girls represented by the ACLU refused, in part because they and their parents did not see how the photos could be classified as pornographic.
One of the photos shows two of the plaintiffs from the waist up. Both are wearing white bras. The second photo shows the third teen wearing only a towel, her breasts exposed.
Mr. Walczak has said it was clear the three girls were victims; they did not take or distribute the photos in question.
Judge Munley ruled Mr. Walczak successfully met the standards necessary to issue a temporary order blocking Mr. Skumanick from filing charges against the three teens, including that they have demonstrated "a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their First Amendment claims." He also believed "no harm would come to (Mr. Skumanick) by delaying prosecution on this matter."
Efforts to reach Mr. Skumanick's attorney, James Hailstone, were unsuccessful Monday.
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Tags: Sexting, Girls, Topless, Bras, Panties, Sex, Sexual, Child Porn, Civil Liberties, 1st Ammendment
Location: Pittston, Pennsylvania, United States (load item map)
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