Sexting is not funny, it’s a felony

Published 12:03 am Sunday, August 21, 2011

NATCHEZ — “Sexting” carries no threat of pregnancy or STDs, but does carry a very real threat of being charged with a felony, Natchez Police Department Lt. Craig Godbold said.

After a 14-year-old student allegedly used his cell phone to capture himself having consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl and sent the video to “numerous friends at Natchez High,” according to a police report filed Friday, the matter has been turned over to the Department of Human Services and youth court, Godbold said.

The girl was unaware that she was being filmed, Godbold said.

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But the offense isn’t a felony just due to the minors’ ages, he said. Sending illicit material via text or the Internet is a felony regardless of how old a person is, Godbold said.

At this point, he said, there’s no way to know how many people have seen the video, because when it’s sent to one person, that person could forward it to multiple others.

The most important thing a person can do is make responsible decisions in the first place, Godbold said.

“Kids need to know that anything they send wirelessly or by Facebook, anything they do (that’s illegal), they can be charged for it — threatening text messages, sexual scenes, they can be arrested,” he said. “If we track them down, they can be charged.”

Responsibility also lies with parents, he said. Most children have the Internet on their phones, and the same messages that can be uploaded on a laptop or desktop computer in the home can be uploaded on a cell phone in a matter of seconds, he said.

But if an illicit message is distributed, he said, it’s necessary to report it.

“You wouldn’t want pictures of your daughter or your son doing illegal things all over the web,” Godbold said. “That’s a total invasion of privacy.”

Police Chief Mike Mullins said over the last two years, NPD has had one or two complaints of cyberstalking per month.

Mullins said sending threatening text messages, photos or videos without a person’s consent could fall under the category of cyberstalking.

“What usually happens is once the victim contacts us and we contact the suspect and tell them the victim wants it stopped, more often than not, (the suspect stops) and the victim is satisfied without filing charges,” Mullins said. “In several cases, the victim has decided to file charges, and we have made arrests.”

Godbold said the number of complaints per month is ever increasing.

“We expect it to increase more with school time coming up, because, I hate to say it, school kids can be cruel,” he said. “They can use (cyber crimes) as a form of bullying.”

Above all, he emphasized, parents should pay attention to their children.

“Know what your children are doing,” Godbold said.