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Conviction of 17 Year Old in "Sexting" Case Upheld By Washington State Supreme Court ― State of Washington v. Eric D. Gray

Posted Friday, February 9, 2018 by Lizanne Padula.

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Recently the Washington State Supreme Court ruled, 6-3, that it was a crime for a 17 year old boy to send an unsolicited, sexually explicit picture of himself to an adult woman. In Washington v. Gray the Court held that the State’s child pornography law Dealing in depictions of minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct (RCW 9.68A.050) is applicable to minors sending pictures of themselves. (State of Washington v. Eric D. Gray, No. 93609-9).

The Petitioner (Defendant) Eric Gray texted a picture of his genitals to a 22 year old woman when he was 17 years old. Gray had been harassing the woman for a year with anonymous phone calls. She had previously worked for Gray’s mother and suspected the photo came from him. She took the texts to the Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies, who then traced the photo back to Gray.

Gray, who was already a registered sex offender from a previous incident, was found guilty in juvenile court of second-degree Dealing in depictions of minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct and sentenced to 30 days in jail and 150 hours of community service.

Grey challenged the conviction in the Washington Court of Appeals, which upheld his conviction, and then at the Washington State Supreme Court, which also upheld his conviction. The Court was unpersuaded by Gray’s argument that the law is designed to prevent adults from trafficking in child pornography and that “the legislature never intended to criminalize teenagers consensually exchanging sexually explicit photographs, opining that doing so would be an impermissible infringement of those teenagers’ First Amendment freedom of expression.” (Id. 8).

The Court held: “RCW 9.68A.050 is unambiguous and anticipates Gray’s actions. The statute prohibits any person from developing or disseminating a sexually explicit image of any minor. Here, Gray sent a sexually explicit picture of himself to an adult woman. Because Gray is a person and because he sent a sexually explicit picture of himself while he was a minor, he was properly charged under the statute. Further, the statute does not unconstitutionally infringe on Gray’s freedom of expression, nor is it unconstitutionally vague.” (Id. 17).

The majority ruling states that the law in question makes it illegal for any person to produce or disseminate child pornography. This includes minors producing or disseminating photos of themselves. Under this ruling a minor texting another minor a sexually explicit photo of him or herself is a crime under RCW 9.68A.050.

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