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You are now logged in. Forgot your password? When Eric Gray was 17, he took a picture of his penis and texted it to a year-old woman he fancied, asking, "Do u like it babe? She thought he was harassing her and contacted police, who thought he was distributing child pornography. Last week, the Washington Supreme Court upheld Gray's conviction on that charge, which makes him a perpetrator as well as a victim, guilty of exploiting himself.
Although Gray's dick pic was unwelcome, this ruling implies that teenagers who engage in consensual sexting are committing felony sex crimes. Writing for the majority, Justice Susan Owens concludes that Gray's behavior fits the plain meaning of Washington's statutewhich says "a person" is guilty of a Class B felony when he "knowingly develops, duplicates, publishes, prints, disseminates, exchanges, finances, attempts to teen dick pic, or sells a visual or printed matter that depicts a minor engaged in an act of sexually explicit conduct.
Because the statute is unambiguous, we take it on its face and find that Gray's actions are included under the statute. Owens concedes that the law "was undoubtedly intended to address the sexual abuse and exploitation of children by adults.
Owens seems untroubled by the fact that the same reasoning would make child pornographers out of teenagers who exchange sexy selfies, who face such charges from time to time. But our duty is to interpret the law as written and, if unambiguous, apply its plain meaning to the facts before us. Gray's actions fall within the statute's plain meaning. Because he was not a minor sending sexually explicit images to another consenting minor, we decline to analyze such a situation.
As dissenting Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud points out, declining to consider that scenario does not save sexting teenagers from the logic of this decision. Their actions, like Gray's, fit the literal meaning of the law. McCloud argues that the majority's interpretation gives short shrift to the legislature's intent and le to "absurd .
According to the legislative findings at the beginning of the chapter under which Gray was convicted, "the state has a compelling interest in protecting children from those who sexually exploit them. She cites the U. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Mann Act, which applies to "any person who shall knowingly transport…any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose. By ignoring the principle reflected in that decision, McCloud says, the majority invites unjust prosecution of minors who have not victimized anyone.
The court's reading of the law, she notes, "means that who texts explicit depictions of himself or herself can be punished more harshly than an adult who does exactly the same thing" and that "a year-old girl who is groomed or lured into taking and then texting explicit depictions of herself to an adult can be prosecuted for succumbing to that grooming. The implications of this decision would be less troubling if prosecutors could be trusted to show a modicum of sense and self-restraint in such cases.
But they have shown in one case after another that they can't. Correction: Justice McCloud is a woman. The pronouns have been adjusted accordingly.
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Dick Pic Makes Teenager Guilty of Sexually Exploiting Himself, High Court Says