The Internet is a perilous place to be chatting with young girls. A person takes a great risk in chatting online with an unknown girl from another state who may or may not be who she represents herself to be. A police officer in South Carolina has probably learned that lesson painfully well after being arrested for the sex offenses of sending explicit photos of himself to a teenage girl in Iowa.
The authorities charged him with interstate commerce of obscene materials to a person under 16. The 30-year-old man was fired for chatting with a 13-year-old girl in another state and sending her several explicit photos of himself after she sent to him photos of herself in her underwear. The photos were discovered in that state and a criminal complaint was sworn out there. Charges may be filed also in South Carolina.
The communications lasted about one week. Because photos of the South Carolina seal and the words West Columbia Police appeared in parts of the photos, the police in Iowa contacted the police here and sent the photos. Authorities in South Carolina arrested the officer, but it was unclear if he was being held for extradition or if he would be prosecuted in South Carolina.
In either event, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect intended to send materials to a minor under 16. The proof may boil down to their chat records. If they don’t reflect a clear communication of the girl’s actual age, there may be questions sufficient enough to raise a reasonable doubt. If there is evidence suggesting instead that he intended to send the photos to someone over 16, a conviction may be difficult to obtain.
Proof beyond a reasonable doubt in South Carolina and other states involves proving each separate element of the crime, including the criminal intent element, beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether the prosecution of these alleged sex offenses is in South Carolina or elsewhere, the prosecutor will have that difficult burden. Additionally, photos as proof of age can be very misleading and could be arbitrary and unreliable proof of a girl’s age. Furthermore, there could be an argument that the photos are not legally obscene.
Source: The State, West Columbia police officer accused of sending porn to young girl, Chris Winston, Oct. 9, 2013