Parents of Iowa 14 year old high school girl sue prosecutor to stop sexting charges

DAVID PITT, Associated Press DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) 11/12  — The parents of a 14-year-old Iowa girl are suing a prosecutor to stop him from charging their daughter with sexual exploitation of a minor or child pornography for sending suggestive photos of herself to a boy.

The lawsuit filed in federal court asks a judge to issue an injunction preventing Marion County Attorney Ed Bull from filing criminal charges against the girl who sent two photos to a boy in her school last spring via Snapchat. The boy apparently shared them with other students and they were discovered among many others during a sexting investigation at Knoxville High School, which has about 600 students.

The lawsuit was filed in September and amended Thursday to add new arguments and to add the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa as attorneys for the girl, who is identified only as Nancy Doe.

In one photo, the girl is wearing underwear and no bra, but her hair covers her breasts, according to Rita Bettis, ACLU of Iowa legal director. In the other, she’s wearing underwear and a sports bra.

Bettis said the photos are not obscene and are not illegal under Iowa law.

Bull, however, alleges in court documents that the photos do constitute nudity as defined in an Iowa code section when such photos are sent “for the purpose of arousing or satisfying the sexual desires of a person who may view a visual depiction of the nude minor.”

“Nancy Doe likely violated Iowa’s statute criminalizing the sexual exploitation of a minor,” he said.

He asks the federal court to dismiss the case and not to intervene in a state prosecution.

Bull told the girl’s family she could avoid charges if she agreed to admit guilt, take classes regarding sexting, relinquish her cellphone for the summer and complete 50 hours of community service.

In a statement provided by the ACLU, the girl’s mother said the photos don’t reveal any more skin than shown in many swimsuit ads.

“We wish to deal with this as a family in our own manner and in our own time without government interference,” said the woman, identified only as Jane Doe. “It’s our job to raise our daughter, not the county attorney’s.”

Bull did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment beyond what he has said in court documents.

Bettis said the lawsuit is intended to protect the constitutional rights of the girl and her parents.

“It is a violation of the First Amendment for a prosecutor to threaten to bring criminal charges for protected speech and expression,” she said. “As a policy matter, we also believe that it truly defies common sense to threaten to put a child in jail or prison or place her on the sex offender registry for taking a picture of herself.”

The lawsuit also claims Bull is violating the girl’s 14th Amendment right to equal protection because a boy posting a similar photo showing his breast area would not be threatened with prosecution in the same way.

Bettis said Bull has agreed to hold off on filing charges until after a judge makes a decision on the lawsuit.


This story has been corrected to reflect that the lawsuit was filed in September and amended Thursday.

Posted in: Courts & Trials, Lawsuits, Sexting

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 + fourteen =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.