A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled on Monday that a local prosecutor cannot file felony child-pornography charges against three teenage girls in a “sexting” case involving a series of nude and nearly nude pictures of the teens that circulated in their hometown last year.
According to The Associated Press, U.S. District Judge James Munley issued a temporary restraining order against Wyoming County District Attorney George Skumanick Jr., who had said he would pursue felony charges against the girls unless they agreed to participate in a five-week after-school sexual-harassment program and probation.
Two of the teens, Marissa Miller and Grace Kelly, had their photos taken by a third girl last summer when they had stripped down to their underwear on a hot night. The image of the two in their white bras ended up on classmates’ cell phones, and Skumanick threatened to charge the pair with offenses ranging from “sexual abuse of children in Pennsylvania” to open lewdness . The American Civil Liberties Union stepped in on their behalf last week and filed suit against Skumanick, asking a federal judge to block the lawyer from filing any charges by claiming that the girls didn’t consent to having their pictures distributed, that the images are not pornographic and that they are protected as First Amendment speech.
A third teen, unnamed in the case, was photographed topless last year in a separate incident and was also included in the ACLU case. She also claimed she did not consent to having her picture distributed to fellow students. Munley said he’d hear arguments in the ACLU lawsuit in June.