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Whitnall student accused of coercing girls to send nude photos

Tom Kertscher

Oct. 15, 2009

Greenfield - A 14-year-old Whitnall High School student is accused of coercing teen girls into sending him sexually explicit photos of themselves.

Greenfield police on Wednesday said they suspect the freshman boy obtained nude and semi-nude photos of at least seven girls who sent the pictures from their cell phones or over the Internet. Police believe at least one of the girls sent the photos voluntarily.

The Whitnall case is the most serious incident to surface in Wisconsin involving the sending of nude photos since charges were filed against Anthony Stancl, 19, of New Berlin. In a case that has gained national attention, Stancl is accused of using the Internet site Facebook to coerce male schoolmates into performing sex acts for him. He allegedly posed as a girl on Facebook and had the boys send him nude photos of themselves.

Taken together, the two cases demonstrate the dangers to young people who take and distribute explicit photographs of themselves, Greenfield police Deputy Inspector Brad Wentlandt said.

"It’s not an invasion of privacy to monitor what your children are doing with their electronic devices," he said of parents. "If your kids are reluctant to show you, I would be concerned."

The photos investigation began Sept. 21 when two students provided information to the Greenfield police officer who works at Whitnall High School, Wentlandt said.

Investigators eventually recovered 80 nude and semi-nude photos of about 50 girls from the boy’s cell phone and iPod, but they have identified only seven girls who said they sent the boy photos, Wentlandt said.

The boy was suspended after the investigation began and is the subject of an expulsion hearing before the School Board, Whitnall Superintendent Karen Petric said.

The boy, who police say lives in Milwaukee, began receiving photos from girls he is suspected of threatening last summer, Wentlandt said. The girls were between the ages of 13 and 15 at the time the photos were sent, he said.

Of the girls who have been identified, five attend Whitnall, which serves Hales Corners and parts of Greenfield and Franklin; one attends Nathan Hale High School in West Allis; and one attends Hamilton High School in Lisbon.

The boy obtained nude photos by telling girls he would spread rumors about them, Wentlandt said. He also told some girls that unless they sent him nude photos of themselves, he would distribute nude photos of other girls that he already possessed, Wentlandt said.

Investigators say they have found no evidence that the boy distributed any of the photos.

Police on Tuesday asked the district attorney’s office to file charges in Milwaukee County Children’s Court, but no decision has been made.

The charges requested are possession of child pornography, a felony; and two misdemeanors: making threats to communicate defamatory information and exposing genitals.

Wentlandt said he objects to the use of the term sexting, which refers to using a cell phone to send text messages that contain sexually explicit comments or pictures.

"It really does not convey the seriousness of the behavior," he said. "When a 14-year-old is receiving sexually explicit photos of another 14-year old, that’s child pornography."

 Wentland said youths need to understand how dangerous it can be to send even one explicit photo to one person.

"When you take a picture of yourself, you have to assume that everyone on the entire planet is going to be able to see that picture" if it is distributed electronically, he said.

 

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