Featured News 2020 "Sextortion," Child Pornography & the Internet

"Sextortion," Child Pornography & the Internet

A. Reynolds was a happy 14-year-old who did well academically and socially, and loved to play sports. She was like any other girl her age—and like many girls her age, she was harmed by someone she was fooled into trusting. In the summer of 2009 she fell victim to an online predator who terrorized young victims into taking sexually explicit images of themselves.

Reynolds was a victim of "sextortion," an Internet crime that targets young people and exploits their fear of being publicly humiliated. Reynolds' happy childhood was turned upside down when an online predator took advantage of her youth and vulnerability. He terrorized her until she sent him sexually explicit images of herself.

After several months, Reynolds' parents discovered that their daughter was targeted and contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The victim's parents supported the FBI's investigation that led to the arrest of the perpetrator, L. Michael Chandler, 26.

In 2014, Chansler pled guilty to multiple counts of producing child pornography and was sentenced to 105 years in prison, but not before he victimized nearly 350 teenage girls.

According to Special Agent Larry Meyer, who investigates crimes against children, 109 of Chansler's victims have been contacted, leaving about 250 girls who haven't had closure or the help that they need.

While Reynolds used the experience to become a stronger person, that has not been the case for all of the victims. According to the FBI, some of the girls who had been victimized by Chansler dropped out of school or tried to commit suicide.

Perpetrator Used Dozens of Fake Screen Names

Chansler used dozens of fake screen names and multiple personas, including "HELLOthere" and “goodlookingguy313" to dupe girls from the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. He used a variety of sophisticated techniques to keep people from learning his true identity.

Pretending to be handsome 15-year-old boys, he trolled popular sites and struck up relationships with teenage girls. When FBI agents asked him why he targeted 13- and 14-year-old girls, he said it was because older girls wouldn't fall for his ploy.

The Other Side of the Coin

Prosecutors (for good reason) want to come down as harshly as possible on child pornographers and “sextortion.” However, there are some situations where prosecutors might be taking their zeal a little too far. In 2018, for instance, another 14-year-old girl was charged with child pornography involving nude selfies.

The victim? Herself.

That’s right—a young woman was charged with felony distribution of child pornography for taking a photo of herself and sending it to a boy she liked. The charge would force the young woman to register as a sex offender for a decade, potentially destroying her future in the process.

Whatever mistakes the young woman made (and studies show that the ‘mistake’ of sending a nude selfie is one that 1 in 8 adolescents have made at some point in their lives), it should not cost her all the opportunities ahead of her. She made an innocent mistake, but that mistake could mean the end of her adult life even before its begun.

Whatever terrible mistake you've made, a criminal defense attorney can help you fight for your future and get your charges reduced or dismissed. Consult a local defense lawyer using our directory today!

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