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Chambersburg students won't be charged in 'sexting' investigation

October 26, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- No charges will be filed in a "sexting" investigation involving about 40 students at Chambersburg Area Senior High School, Chambersburg borough police announced Monday.

About 30 photos of girls "in varying stage of undress" circulated via cell phone and computer, police said in a news release.

Chambersburg Police Chief David Arnold declined to provide additional comments on why charges will not be filed and referred further questions to the district attorney's office.

In the news release, Arnold wrote the photos were all taken with the girls' knowledge, and some were taken as long as three years ago.

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None of the images depicted "overt sexual activity," the news release states.

School and law enforcement officials have said they became aware of the sexting in late September.

Earlier this month, state Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, R-Montgomery/Bucks, introduced legislation to address sexting and classify incidents as a summary offense for juveniles.

Franklin County Assistant District Attorney Bret Beynon previously said the best-fitting existing charge in the Chambersburg case would have been child pornography. The felony could have had long-term effects on the teenagers' criminal records.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association wants lawmakers to establish a misdemeanor offense to encompass sexting, Beynon said. She, too, would like to see that happen.

"I don't think it should be a felony, but I also don't think it should be a summary," Beynon said of Greenleaf's proposal, Senate Bill 1121.

Beynon said she hasn't read Senate Bill 1121, so she couldn't comment on the provisions.

On his Web site, Greenleaf described some of the aspects, such as prohibiting people younger than 18 from transmitting nude images of teenagers "to another person who is not more than four years younger or more than four years older than the person transmitting the photograph." The legislation is designed to target sexting between youths of approximately the same age.

Infractions would go before a magisterial district judge, rather than a juvenile court judge.

Transmitting images to someone more than 4 years younger or older -- or sending images of sexual intercourse or masturbation -- would result in an offense treated more seriously, Greenleaf's Web site states.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is reviewing the legislation.

"It seems a lot of states are trying to get caught up with this," Beynon said, referring to criminal codes across the United States.

At least nine states introduced legislation this year to address sexting, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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