June 27, 2013

Legal sex and smartphone video equals child pornography

6-27-2013 South Carolina:

Sidney Myers, a 20-year-old South Carolina man, had procured a powerful handheld device built in a foreign country, a device which allowed him both to transmit a bomb threat and to create child pornography. The device was an HTC smartphone, and his use of the phone has now branded Myers a lifelong sex offender and landed him an 18 month federal prison sentence. His public defender claims that the “facts of this case have never been seen in our jurisdiction and likely will not be seen again,” but in the smartphone age, perhaps the facts no longer seem as unusual as they once would have.

Problems began when Myers met a young woman in a club. According to Myers’ lawyer, the woman told him that she was 18—though in reality she was just 16. They began dating, which led to sex, which led to videos of sex, all taken on Myers’ smartphone with the woman’s full consent. (Two different government press releases on Myers say he had either five or six such videos on his phone; the exact number is unclear.)

That age difference didn’t matter, legally, when it came to having sex. “It should be noted that under both South Carolina and federal law, the age of consent is 16, so it was legal for them to have sex whether she was 16 or 18,” wrote Myers’ lawyer in a court filing. But the age difference did matter when it came to recording the act. Because the girl was a minor, the images were child pornography under federal law, even though they involved a consensual relationship and someone above the age of consent.

Myers didn’t share the videos with anyone, which is typically how such cases end up in the judicial system; he didn’t even transfer them off his phone. The videos would have remained private mementos had Myers not had a truly terrible idea on November 2, 2011.

The bomb threat

He had spent the previous night at the girl’s home, with the consent of the girl’s mother, and he wanted to spend more time with her. As Myers’ lawyer describes the moment, “The two of them came up with a plan for [the girl] not to go to high school that day. On impulse, Mr. Myers called the office at her school and reported a bomb threat.” In fact, investigators would later find that he had called twice, claiming that six bombs were on the school grounds of Eau Claire High School. ..for the rest of the story.. by Nate Anderson

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