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2 Greensburg middle school students charged with sharing partially nude photo

Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Two Greensburg Salem Middle School students have been charged under a new state “sexting” law with a summary offense after one sent the other a partially nude photo in October, police said.

The 13-year-old girl and the 14-year-old boy both face a charge of transmission of sexually explicit images by minors filed before Greensburg District Judge James Albert.

The girl used her cellphone to send a topless photo of herself to the boy at his request, police said. The boy deleted the photo and didn't show it to others, said Greensburg Detective Sgt. Henry Fontana.

The new law, which Gov. Tom Corbett signed in October, created a tiered system to adjudicate cases. The law reduced consensual sending of explicit photos between minors older than age 12 to a summary offense — the least serious criminal charge possible.

“In this case, there wasn't any intent to harass anybody,” Fontana said. “It was basically poor judgment.”

A national discussion about sexting — sending nude or semi-nude photos via cellphone — hit home when six Greensburg Salem High School students were involved in the exchange of explicit photos in late 2008. The six were charged with felony offenses. Critics said the law at that time was too harsh for minors.

Five of the six students facing a child pornography charge were ordered by a county juvenile court judge to take part in educational programs. One of the teens, who had a previous juvenile record, was placed on probation for a year.

In the recent case, the 14-year-old boy could have faced more serious charges if he had sent the girl's photo to others, Fontana said.

“Our goal has always been to send the message to teens that this behavior is illegal, while also saving them from a lifetime of the negative effects of a felony prosecution as a sexual offender,” Rep. Seth Grove, a York County Republican and the primary sponsor of the sexting bill, said shortly after Corbett signed the legislation.

Under the law, the offender can be ordered to take part in “discretionary programs” such as educational forums or community service, Fontana said.

Fontana, who filed the charges a few days ago, said he believes a change in the law was needed.

District Attorney John Peck agreed.

“I think a summary offense is more appropriate in most incidents,” Peck said. “This is not a case of child pornography that came under the statute. These are situations where kids are being immature and foolish.”

A message left with Greensburg Salem Superintendent Eileen Amato wasn't immediately returned on Wednesday.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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