There is a very interesting case out of Pennsylvania where U.S. District Judge James M. Munley granted a temporary injunction to prevent Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr. (left) from charging three teen girls who appeared in seminude photographs traded by classmates. A common practice called “sexting.” It is extremely uncommon to see an injunction of a criminal charge.
Skumanick’s lack of judgment in this matter may have warranted extreme action from the court. Recently, prosecutors llike Skumanich have been charge teenagers with pornography crimes for trading pictures of themselves. These charges show a complete failure to use prosecutorial discretion and a willingness to turn teens into felons for conduct that should be the subject of parental not criminal review.
Nevertheless, the view of many courts is that such challenges should be made in the context of the criminal case and not in a separate action. The case was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and constitutes no small legal feat. I agree with the court that, putting aside the procedural questions, there is a serious free speech concern raised by Skumanick’s crackdown.
It appears that Skumanick is threatening a variety of Tunkhannock Area School District students, as many as 20 threatened with child pornography charges.
Skumanick charged the girls even though the pictures reportedly show two of the girls in their bras or one with a girl just out of the shower and topless but with a towel wrapped around her waist. That strikes many as a touch of the Taliban as Skumanick uses criminal prosecution to punish teenage conduct.
The school officials who called in the police are equally worthy of criticism. What happened to the day when school officials called parents and handled these matters privately? Instead, they allowed Skumanick to turn this into a national circus by treating the teens as felons. The lack of judgment shown by the teens was exceeded by the lack of judgment of the officials and particularly Skumanick.
Skumanick faces a challenge for reelection this year and could be sent back to private practice.
For the full story, click here.