Trooper Steve Kramer and Trooper Amy Belanger, both community service troopers and recruiters for the Michigan State Police, offered an informative presentation to students and parents called Social Media and the Law at Armstrong Middle School Jan. 9.
During the presentation, Kramer addressed child sexually abusive material and activity. He said persuading, engaging, funding or producing such material is punishable by law by a 20-year felony and up to a $100,000 fine. Distributing, finance distribution or promoting the material is a seven-year felony and also punishable by a $50,000 fine. Possession of child sexually abusive material is a four-year felony and also punishable by a $10,000 fine.
“Students are being charged in these cases,” Kramer said. “If they are found guilty of one the other things they will obviously be guilty of possession. So, one picture could cause someone to have to serve over 30 years in prison.”
In one case Kramer described, three teenage girls sent nude or semi-nude pictures to three male classmates. All the students involved were charged with possessing and disseminating child sexually abusive material.
“Although this happened in Pennsylvania, the laws in Michigan and Pennsylvania are similar” Kramer said.
Kramer talked about the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, a system designed to allow government authorities to keep track of the residence and activities of sex offenders, including those who have completed their criminal sentences. There are approximately 33,000 sex offenders in Michigan.
Kramer told the attendees to the presentation about Phillip Alpert, who sent a naked photo of his 16-year-old girlfriend she had sent to him to dozens of her friends and family after an argument. Alpert said it was a stupid thing he did in the middle of the night because he was tired and upset.
“Now he’s a registered sex offender,” Kramer said.
Kramer also told the crowd at the presentation about Jessica Logan, whose ex-boyfriend, after they broke up, circulated among his friends a nude photo of Logan that she had sent via text message to him while they were dating.
“Students called her slut and whore and worse,” Kramer said. “She was a great student. But, she started skipping classes. Then, she told her story on the news for which her voice was disguised. The students knew it was her. Her parents moved her out of state. But, the students at the new school found out from the students at the old school what happened. Two months later, she killed herself.”
Kramer said although the boyfriend may not have intended for Logan to die, he could be charged with murder.
Belanger said during the presentation, they like to focus on teen suicide and that it’s at an all-time high, with bullying and cyberbullying being the number one reason.
“The national statistics show that chances are you have either been a witness to bullying, have been bullied or have participated in bullying before the age of 12,” she said. “In Florida, a 12 and 14-year-old were charged criminally after they bullied and cyberbullied a 12-year-old girl to the point that she committed suicide.”
Belanger said she’s confident the presentation educated parents and students about the consequences of committing these crimes and hopefully encouraged parents to pay attention to what their children are doing on social media and electronic devices.