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Federal judge enjoins child pornography prosecution of high school texters

[JURIST] A judge in the US District for the Middle District of Pennsylvania [official website] issued a temporary restraining order [text, PDF] Monday blocking child pornography charges against three teenage girls who appeared in photographs distributed by cell phone throughout their high school. Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. had told the girls and their parents that unless the girls completed an after-school re-education program, they would be charged [AP report] with distributing child pornography. In Pennsylvania, it is a felony to have or distribute pictures of minors engaged in lewd activity or provocatively exposed. None of the pictures of the girls revealed anything below the waist, and all were taken over a year ago. None of the students responsible for disseminating the photos [Scranton Times report] has been charged. Judge James Munley found that all factors for issuing a temporary restraining order had been met and scheduled a hearing on the merits for June.

The plaintiffs are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLUPA) [advocacy website] and filed suit [complaint, PDF; case materials] against Skumanick last week. ACLUPA lawyer Witold Walczak contends [press release] that the photos are protected by the First Amendment and that requiring the girls to attend a re-education program interferes wit the parents' rights to raise their daughters as they wish. According to the complaint, 20 percent of teens nationwide [survey results; PDF] have participated in the distribution of similar pictures, a phenomenon known as 'sexting.'

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