A 15-year-old girl stands accused of distributing nude photos of herself to other minors, and one state legislator is questioning whether or not she should be labeled a sex offender. The girl, a student at Licking Valley High School, was arrested Friday after school officials discovered the materials and brought in a police investigation.
The girl, whose name has not been released, now faces two charges: illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material, a second degree felony; and possession of criminal tools, a fifth degree felony.
For an adult convicted of child pornography it requires a Tier II sexual offender classification. However Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, said the judge has flexibility with a juvenile of this defendant's age. The junvenille section of Senate Bill 10 includes a part which states that if the child is a first-time offender and age 14 or 15 that the judge can decide not to make him or her register.
The incident comes immediately following a visit from Licking County Prosecutor Ken Oswalt, who had been visiting area high schools and educating teens on the consequences of such an action. Oswalt talked about the dangers of this behavior, both in terms of personal embarrassment as well as contribution to child pornography on the internet.
Assistant Prosecutor Erin Welch said this week that the investigation into the incident remains open, including exploring whether or not charges will be filed against those minors who received the photos.
Should the prosecturos office decide to bring those teens to court as well, they may face a different section of the same charge pending against the photos' sender, and may also face having to register as sex offenders. Ohio law 2097.323(A)(3) states that anyone possessing material that shows a minor in a state of nudity is guilty of a fifth degree felony, and may also qualify one as a Tier I sexual offender, which would require annual registration for ten years.
If the girl who took the photos of herself is classified as a sexual offender, she would not be subject to publication on the public websites because she is a juvenile, but she would be required to register for 20 years.
The girl is currently on house arrest, and is not permitted to have access to a cell phone or the Internet without adult supervision and for no other purpose than school work.