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Suggestive photos won't lead to charges

Three Eagle Point teenagers will not face charges for sending text messages of nude photos to other teens because the acts were not criminal, according to the Jackson County's District Attorney's Office.

Two female teenagers took nude photos of themselves, and each sent a photo of herself to a teenage boy, said Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston. The two boys passed on the photos to other teenagers, Huddleston said. The practice has become prevalent enough across the country that it's earned its own name: "sexting," a takeoff on the common use of cell phones for texting.

Local law enforcement officials disagree about whether sending the photographs to others constitutes the felony of encouraging child sex abuse.

One teenage girl and two teenage boys were initially cited by Eagle Point police for encouraging child sex abuse.

However, for the teens to be guilty of encouraging child sex abuse, they would have had to know that the photographs were the result of child sex abuse, Huddleston said. Because the girls took the photos of themselves and willingly passed them on to others, the photographs are not considered to be child sex abuse, he said.

"If the state Legislature wants to deal with this kind of conduct, it will have to change the law," Huddleston said. He said he consulted with the Oregon Attorney General and the Lane County District Attorney's Office before making his decision, and both were in agreement.

The Eagle Point citations are now void, Huddleston said.

Officer Heidi Kazakoss, the Eagle Point police school resource officer at Eagle Point High School, learned of the photos about six weeks ago from conversations with students, said Eagle Point Police Chief David Strand.

The Pew Research Center released the results of a survey Tuesday indicating that about 4 percent of cell-phone owners ages 12 to 17 have sent sexually suggestive, nude or nearly nude photos or videos of themselves to someone else via text. About 15 percent of respondents in the same age group said they had received sexually suggestive images of someone they know via text.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.