A 15-year-old Ohio girl was arrested on felony child pornography charges for allegedly sending nude cell phone pictures of herself to classmates. Authorities are considering charging some of the students who received the photos as well.
The unnamed student from Licking Valley High School in Newark, Ohio was arrested Friday after school officials discovered the materials and notified police. She spent the weekend in juvenile detention and entered a plea of "deny" on Monday, according to The NewarkAdvocate.com.
Charges include illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and possession of criminal tools. If convicted, the girl could be forced to register as a sexual offender for 20 years, but because of her age, the judge hearing the case has some flexibility in the matter, an official told the Advocate.
The pictures came to light after a Licking County prosecutor began visiting high schools to educate students on the consequences of transmitting nude photos by cell phone. According to one student interviewed by 10TV News, the teens were warned they could serve 20 years if convicted.
A student later notified an adult of the nude cell phone pictures, and the adult in turn contacted school officials. School officials had pulled the girl aside and warned her about the behavior immediately after the presentation, according to a separate article by the Advocate.
This isn't the first case in which zealous American prosecutors have used child pornography statutes to protect vulnerable juveniles from themselves. In 2004, a 16-year-old girl and her 17-year-old boyfriend took pictures of themselves while naked and engaged in unspecified "sexual behavior." They didn't show the pictures to anyone, but they did send them to the boy's email address.
Eventually each was charged with producing, directing, or promoting a photograph featuring the sexual conduct of a child. The boy was also charged with an extra count of possession of child pornography. As CNET News reported here, the girl's conviction was upheld last year on appeal.
Licking County prosecutors say they have received some 20 cases involving questionable cell phone pictures. They say investigators are trying to determine how many juveniles received nude photos of the girl and have left open the possibility that others will be charged in the incident.
The girl, who is a foster child, remains under house arrest. She is not allowed to have access to a cell phone or the internet except for school purposes and then only with adult supervision. ®