The state has decided not to press criminal charges on three Pembroke Pines minors who posted nude photos of other minors onto an Instagram account. Instead, the three, a 13-year-old girl, and two 12-year-old boys, will do community service and go to therapy.
The three were arrested and charged with electronic transmission of child pornography back in February after they created an Instagram account that posted explicit photos of other minors in the Broward County area. But, because most of the photos were selfies, showed body parts, and did not depict any sexual acts, prosecutors from the Broward State Attorney's Office decided to not charge the three.
Another factor was that none of the minors depicted in the Instagram posts came forward.
"We have had no subjects of the photographs come forward or want to be involved in the prosecution," said head of juvenile unit of the Broward State Attorney's Office, Maria Schneider, via the Sun-Sentinel.
According to the Pembroke Pines Police report, the Instagram posts included the victims' names as well as other personal information. Police say the account, which had around 500 followers, would ask for submissions from minors to send in explicit photos of friends and classmates in order to "expose" them. Followers of the account would then apparently harass the victims by writing insulting and cruel comments on each post.
Pembroke Pines Police said they began to investigate the account back in December, and were eventually able to identify the three youths who created it.
While juvenile sexting isn't illegal, it is classified as a violation, which carries with it community service and a fine. The 13-year-old, however, could have been facing child pornography charges.
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Two years ago, two Pasco County teens were arrested on child-porn charges after one of them allegedly videotaped the other having sex with a girl on their high school campus.
But the state has opted to put the three Pembroke Pines teens into voluntary therapy, which is usually completed within three to six months.
In the end, Schneider says, the state deemed that the most appropriate way to go. Still, police are warning that this type of behavior could lead to serious charges.
"The Pembroke Pines Police Department urges the community to pay close attention to their children's online activity," Sgt. Angela Goodwin said "Anyone that transmits, downloads, or possesses images and or videos which depict the exploitation of juveniles are subject to state and federal criminal charges."