ALLENTOWN, Pa. — U.S. District Judge James Munley has issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. to prevent him from filing child porn charges against three girls who "sexted" sexy photos of themselves to friends.
The Plaintiffs "make a reasonable argument that the images presented to the court do not appear to qualify in any way as depictions of prohibited sexual acts," Munley wrote in an order issued Monday. "Even if they were such depictions, the plaintiffs' argument that [they] were not involved in disseminating the images is also a reasonable one."
The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed last week by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of students Marissa Miller, Grace Kelly and "Jane Doe," whose semi-nude photos were discovered on the cellphones of five male students at Tunkhannock Area High School.
The three girls, five boys and about a dozen other students and their parents were summoned to a meeting conducted by Skumanick, who gave the kids a "choice" of either attending sexual harassment classes lasting upwards of 50 hoursor possibly facing charges of production and distribution of child pornography. Seventeen of the students went for the "deal"; the three girls sued.
"I don't want to be bullied," Miller told the Scranton Times. "I don't feel I did anything wrong ."
At a hearing on the TRO held last Thursday , Judge Munley questioned the basis for Skumanick's threat.
"It seems like the children seemed to be the victims and the perpetrators here," the judge remarked to A. James Hailstone, Skumanick's lawyer. "How does that make sense?"
Hailstone sidestepped the contradiction, responding that state law "doesn’t distinguish between who took the picture and who was in it."
Munley issued the restraining order for the duration of the lawsuit, but noted that his ruling offers "no final conclusion on the merits of plaintiffs' position."
A further hearing on the case will be held June 2.
An editorial on the issue of sexting will appear in the April issue of AVN.