2010-05-06 / Local & State

U.S. Judge Bars ‘Sexting’ Prosecution Of PA Girls

SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) – A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction barring northeastern Pennsylvania prosecutors from filing charges against several teenage girls in connection with racy cell-phone photos.

U.S. District Judge James Munley issued the order Friday after Wyoming County District Attorney Jeff Mitchell said he had no plans to file charges against three girls who filed a federal lawsuit last year over the matter. The ruling follows a decision in March by the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals barring prosecutors from pursuing felony charges in the case.

The girls and their parents, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said the photos were not pornographic and the girls did not send or receive them.

The judge has given the parties 30 days to resolve the issue of legal fees.

In October 2008, officials at Tunkhannock Area High School confiscated five cell phones and found that boys had been trading photos of scantily clad, seminude or nude teenage girls. The students with the cell phones ranged in age from 11 to 17. One image showed a 16- year-old girl just out of the shower and topless, with a towel wrapped around her waist.

Then-District Attorney George Skumanick met with about 20 students and their parents and offered them a deal in which the youths wouldn’t be prosecuted if they took a class on sexual harassment, sexual violence and gender roles. Seventeen of the students accepted the offer, but three sued Skumanick. Munley in March 2009 temporarily barred the prosecution.

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