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May 21, 2010 2:17 PM

One Pennsylvania County Probably Wishes It Had Never Heard of "Sexting"

Posted by Zach Lowe

It was made for the headlines: Sixteen teenagers from one Pennsylvania county were caught "sexting," and prosecutors there decided to charge them with child pornography, even though in at least some cases the explicit messages were meant only for significant others. The decision to hit kids with child pornography charges was a bold move, one that drew praise from some concerned over moral values and outrage from those who accused prosecutors of overstepping.

A year later? We're guessing the folks in Wyoming County are pretty much sick of even hearing the word "sexting." As you may remember, prosecutors threatened the teens with criminal charges unless they attended a class on the "dangers of sexting," according to the Legal Intelligencer, one of our sibling publications. Most of the teens agreed to the deal, but three girls and their parents refused, claiming prosecutors had no authority to bring the charges in the first place. Those families, repped by the local ACLU and lawyers from Cozen O'Connor, won a federal injunction preventing prosecutors from bringing the charges. When U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld that injunction, the families had themselves an emphatic win. 

Guess what? The teens and their families aren't through with local authorities yet. One of the girls caught "sexting" is suing Wyoming County authorities and school officials, accusing them of violating several constitutional rights when they seized her cell phone and looked through its contents at the start of the sexting controversy, according the Intelligencer. The plaintiff, now 19, and her legal team at Cozen and the ACLU claim school officials had the right to seize the girl's phone but not to look at the photos inside. She claims the photos were meant only for her long-term boyfriend, the Intelligencer says. She also accuses the lead detective investigating the sexting case of saying during questioning that "it was a shame" the girl had not waited until her eighteeth birthday to take the photos, since, had she been old enough, "she could have submitted the photographs directly to Playboy magazine." 

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