ACLU may sue over Greensburg teens' 'sexting' charges
By Bob Stiles
Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania said the organization might sue over the filing of “sexting” charges against two Greensburg Salem Middle School students.
“I think the message is if the district attorney or police are using this situation to prosecute ... we will be looking to file a lawsuit and have it overturned,” Witold “Vic” Walczak said.
Using the state's sexting law, Greensburg police charged a 13-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy with transmission of sexually explicit images by minors, a summary offense.
Last fall, authorities said, the girl sent a topless photo of herself to the boy at his request. The boy then deleted the photo, police said.
The girl's mother discovered the photo and contacted authorities. Police then spoke to officials at the middle school and seized the boy's phone for analysis.
The photo was sent during a weekend and did not directly involve the school, Superintendent Eileen Amato said.
In October, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law a measure that established a tiered system to adjudicate cases of sexting — the sending of nude or partially nude photos via cellphone.
A national discussion about sexting hit home when six Greensburg Salem High School students were involved in the exchange of explicit photos in 2008. The six were charged with felony offenses. At that time, critics said the law was too harsh for minors.
Neither child should have been charged in the most recent case, Walczak contends.
“This was our fear,” he said of how the sexting law would be applied. “It is good they are not charging kids with child pornography ... but in a situation like this, it's not a crime. You shouldn't be charged with anything.”
The girl's actions are protected under the U.S. Constitution, Walczak said.
“She has created an image,” he said. “Photographs are protected by the First Amendment.”
If the boy had sent the photo to others, then authorities could consider filing charges, Walczak added.
Westmoreland County District Attorney John Peck said he did not know enough about Walczak's claims to address them.
“Apparently this was a matter that was discussed with the family of the people involved, and the family was in agreement for this to proceed in his method,” Peck said.
Greensburg police Chief Walter “Wally” Lyons defended the filing of the summary charges before Greensburg District Judge James Albert.
“After we completed our investigation, we consulted with the Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office, and it was determined to file the summary charges against both individuals under the new statute,” Lyons said.
“In this particular case, I think everything that was done was done in the proper manner ... under the statute.”
Greensburg Salem officials regularly review with students the potential harm of sexting or improper use of the Internet, Amato said.
“I guess I agree with John Peck. It's a case of kids, teenagers, making bad choices,” she said.
Bob Stiles is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Overton plans ‘Homestead Holiday’
- Norvelt to begin new holiday event
- Latrobe police install drug take-back box
- Trafford police arrest woman selling drugs for `shopping money’
- Jeannette man accused in assault with tire iron
- Norvelt EMS hopes to fill an ambulance with toys
- Help on deck to help Jeannette deal with Monsour, nearby buildings
- PSU students accused of intimidation
- Jeannette alerted to police costs
- Pair robs Hempfield pharmacy
- Crash closes I-70 lanes for hours