The Marion County Attorney had announced plans to charge the girl with sexual exploitation of a minor, for taking selfies of herself in a mirror in her bedroom and then sending the photos to a boy in her high school. One photo showed the girl wearing a sports bra and shorts. She was topless in the second photo, but her hair covered her breasts.
The girls parents sued in federal court to block the charges. The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa has announced details of a legal settlement. No charges will be filed and Marion County officials have agreed to pay $40,000 in legal fees to the attorneys who represented the girl and her parents in their federal lawsuit.
The ACLU of Iowa released a written statement from the girl’s parents. The couple called the county attorney’s threat of criminal charges “bizarre and terrifying” and they said the photos “didn’t show any more skin than many swimsuit ads.” The girl’s parents accused the Marion County Attorney of trying to impose “his own sexist moral standards” on their daughter.
Marion County Attorney Ed Bull says the legal settlement was a “business decision” made by the Marion County Board of Supervisors and its insurance company. Bull says police and juvenile court services determined “the facts supported a prosecution” of this girl and other Knoxville students who were caught “sexting.” The other teens were enrolled in a “diversion program.”
“In an attempt to allow these young people to have a ‘learning event’ in their life that could perhaps change their behavior, without any of the horrific consequences that could go along with a sex-based, criminal prosecution, including potentially being labeled as a sex offender,” Bull says.
The other Knoxville students who were caught “sexting” and who participated in the “diversion program” had to give up their cell phones for the summer and attend classes about the proper use of social media.