Court Rules that Children’s Faces Put on Adult Bodies Does Not Constitute Child Porn

In the last few years, the Supreme Court and lower courts have been considering claims of virtual child pornography — where the images look real but are actually computer generated. It creates a difficult legal question. However, Marshal Zidel presented an equally difficult question for the New Hampshire Supreme Court: Is it child pornography when the camp photographer took the faces of children at the camp and superimposed them on the bodies of adults? The state supreme court ruled that it is not. What is most disturbing is not Zibel’s perverse conduct is not unique.

Marshal Zidel, 61, was originally sentenced in June 2006 to up to seven years in prison due to his bizarre and disturbing conduct at Camp Young Judea in Amherst. However, since the pictures do not show sexual acts committed by the children and Zidel did not distribute them, they do not qualify as child pornography.

Associate Justice Gary Hicks dissented and said that “I believe that a child need not actually engage in the sexual activity depicted in morphed child pornography to be a victim of sexual exploitation.”

In 2002 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a provision of federal law that banned computer simulations and virtual pornography under the first amendment. In Ashcroft v. The Free Speech Coalition, Justice Kennedy in a 6-3 decision found that the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996 was “overbroad” and swept within its prohibitions many valuable and artistic works.

“Pictures of what appear to be a 17-year-old engaging in sexually explicit activity do not in every case contravene community standards . . . The (Act) also prohibits speech having serious redeeming value, proscribing the visual depiction of an idea — that of teenagers engaging in sexual activity — that is a fact of modern society and has been a theme in art and literature for centuries.”

The case of Zidel has some shared aspects with the infamous case in 2002 of David Cobb, a former English teacher at the elite Philips Academy in Andover, Mass. Dubbed the “Pumpkin Man” for his creepy penchant for wearing a pumpkin mask while soliciting sex from minors, Cobb was arrested with a 12-year-old boy in the act of solicited. In the bag was a price list entitled “Pay Scale for Helping Pumpkin.” There were also many pictures in which Cobb had pasted the pictures in which he pasted children’s faces from catalogues over pictures of adult models. Cobb also pleaded guilty in Maine to having unlawful sexual contact with a 9-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy. His appeals failed and he was on June 22, 2007 after spending 11 years in prison.

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