An Iowa 14-year-old who took two pictures of herself — one in a bra and “boy shorts” (that is, undies), the other topless but with her hair covering her breasts — had been threatened by Marion County Attorney Ed Bull with prosecution as a child pornographer.
The girl, Jane Doe, was part of a group of kids who’d been caught sexting, and the rest agreed to Bull’s deal whereby they’d admit their guilt, do some community service, take classes on the dangers of sexting and give up their electronic devices for a time. If they did all that, they wouldn’t be prosecuted for a sex crime and possibly end up on the sex offender registry. Jane Doe was the only one who didn’t take that option, and chose to sue the prosecutor instead.
Yesterday the ACLU of Iowa announced that Marion County Attorney Ed Bull, who last year threatened to prosecute a teenager for producing child pornography by using her phone to take pictures of herself in her underwear, has promised not to bring charges. In exchange, the ACLU has withdrawn the lawsuit it filed on behalf of the girl’s parents in November.
Although Bull lost the fight he picked with a 14-year-old girl, the CBS station in Des Moines reports, he has no regrets:
Bull was unrepentant…
“As county attorney, it is my job to pursue justice. Nothing can or will change that,” he said. “I will put the ACLU’s dismissal papers in my file and go right back to work serving my community.”
The TV station says Bull was trying to teach the girl an important lesson about “the life-altering consequences that could arise from being labeled as a sex offender.” Since he was the one threatening to label her as a sex offender, this exercise was rather like burning down a kid’s house to teach him the danger of playing with matches. If Bull had stayed out of what should have been a family matter, there would have been no need for the girl to worry that an adolescent indiscretion might ruin her life.
The sooner we get the “justice” system out of the business of prosecuting kids who sext each other, the sooner parents everywhere will breathe a sigh of relief. Just because laws made long before cell phones now snare young kids in their clutches doesn’t mean that they must be enforced. It means they must be changed.
Until then, prosecutors using them to ruin young people’s lives must be called out for what they are: Creeps who get off on hurting children.