The judges ruling stated, "Nothing in the statute indicates that the 'person' and the 'minor' are necessarily different entities."
Phone Sexting

Adrianna Calvo/Pexels

The Washington State Supreme Court recently upheld a ruling that convicted a 17-year-old as a child pornographer for sending a picture of his own body.

Ars Technica reports that this Thursday, The Washington State Supreme Court upheld the conviction of 17-year-old Eric Gray of Spokane, WA that charged him with the distribution of child pornography for sending a picture of his erect penis to a 22-year-old woman.

In a 7-1 decision, the highest court in the state decided that the law prohibiting the distribution of child pornography can apply to someone who is themselves the victim of such child pornography.

Under state law, Gray could now face up to 10 years in prison for the conviction.

The court wrote that “Our duty is to interpret the law as written and, if unambiguous, apply its plain meaning to the facts before us. Gray’s actions fall within the statute’s plain meaning.”

They go on to say that “the statute here is unambiguous. A ‘person’ is any person, including a minor. Images of a ‘minor’ are images of any minor. Nothing in the statute indicates that the ‘person’ and the ‘minor’ are necessarily different entities.”

However many people point out the absurdity of charging someone with a crime, and punishing them for it, that they themselves are the victim of.

A joint brief submitted by the ACLU and other organizations in anticipation of the ruling stated that upholding this conviction “would jeopardize thousands of minors across the state by criminalizing increasingly common and normative adolescent behavior.”

The judges, in their majority opinion, attempt to assuage these worries explaining of Gray that, “Because he was not a minor sending sexually explicit images to another consenting minor, we decline to analyze such a situation.”

Gray has already been registered as a sex offender for a previous crime and police were first made aware of these photos when the woman he sent them to reported him for harassing her with threatening phone calls and sexually explicit images.

As the lone objecting voice on the court, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, wrote in her dissent that the troubled Gray would be better served by medical and psychiatric care than incarceration.

She also pointed out that, “The majority, however, holds that the statute takes the punitive approach to the depicted, vulnerable victim child. I can’t believe the legislature intended that absurdity, either.”

While this case did not deal with a situation of two consenting minors sharing sexual images, the court decision could have ramifications for how those cases are tried.

In their majority opinion, the judges even addressed this worry saying, “We also understand the worry caused by a well-meaning law failing to adapt to changing technology.”

Until the laws are updated to reflect changing technology and norms, courts will have to continue to uphold absurd rulings based on outdated language.


Next, read about the man who claimed in court that he didn’t know he downloaded child porn because he is blind. Then, check out this story about the woman who says she killed her 6-year-old daughter with a shotgun to save her from aliens.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.
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