Monday, June 25, 2012

You Make The Call . . .

I read several news stories on this topic last week and decided it was worthy of discussion here . . .

The Ruling
The Illinois Supreme Court recently ruled on the case of People v. Hollins, that a Stephenson County man named Marshall Hollins was guilty of child pornography despite the fact that his ongoing sexual relationship with an unnamed minor was perfectly legal under Illinois state law.  Mr Hollins conviction and sentence of 8 years in prison was therefore upheld by the state's highest court.

In 2009, Marshall Hollins was 34 years of age.   While attending Highland Community College in Freeport, Illinois, he met an unnamed 17 year old girl and became friends.  Not long after meeting, Marshall and his friend began having a sexual relationship.  

In Illinois, 17 years of age is considered to be the legal "age of consent", the point where the law no longer considers a sexual relationship with an adult to be illegal.  Sex with any minor under the age of 17 is considered to be a form of Statutory Rape in Illinois, as state law does not consider youth (16 and under) to be capable of legally consenting to sexual activity.

In the course of their legal intimate relationship, Mr Hollins used his cell phone to shoot some pictures of them together during lovemaking.  The picture taking was very much consensual, and it should probably be added that the photos themselves, while revealing intimate acts, did not include images which showed either individual's face, nor any identifying tattoos or birthmarks.  Nor were the pictures ever published or shared publicly.

After Marshall emailed three of the photos he'd taken during their intimate tryst to his young lady friend, they were discovered by the undisclosed minor's mother, who promptly contacted law enforcement authorities.  When questioned by local law enforcement, Hollins admitted that he'd had sex with the girl and that he'd taken the pictures.  He also told them that it was his belief that the pictures were perfectly legal, since the age of consent in Illinois is 17.

The police and State's Attorney disagreed with his assumption, Marshall was then arrested, then tried and convicted, in Stephenson County for the crime of Child Pornography.  He was later sentenced to a prison term of 8 years.

Legal Arguments
I'm not an attorney, and while I can usually "translate" legalese well, putting it into understandable terms for most people, I find it best to provide a summary of the arguments made on Marshall Hollins' behalf that was part of a write up on this story at AVN:

As the case worked its way through the illinois court system, Hollins argued that the child porn statute, as applied to him, violated his due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as similar rights under the Illinois constitution, in the following ways: (1) that application of the statute to defendant does not bear a reasonable relationship to the public interest to be protected because it denies consenting adults the right to engage in private sexual activities of their choice; (2) that the statute violates the Illinois Constitution’s privacy clause, which provides greater privacy protections than does the United States Constitution; and (3) that when viewed in the context of the Illinois sex offense statutes, the statute failed to give defendant fair notice his conduct was criminal.

Frankly, those are pretty good arguments. Although there have been cases where guys have posted sexual photos of their ex-girlfriends online, Hollins was no vengeful teenager, and there was no expectation that anyone would see the photos except him and A.V.. Beyond that, both Hollins and A.V., who were having regular sexual relations, consented to having the photos taken in the privacy of Hollins' bedroom as part of their legal sexual relationship—and he had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with taking the pictures because, after all, they were already having sex!

Sadly, the Illinois Supreme Court didn't see it that way. It ruled that, under the "rational basis" test, Illinois had properly prohibited minors from being photographed in sexual situations to protect them from sexual abuse and exploitation, and that, "Raising the age to 18, even though the age of consent for sexual activity is 17, is a reasonable means of accomplishing this legitimate government purpose as it aids the State in enforcing child pornography laws."

So the Supremes (state version) essentially ruled that age of consent has no bearing on child pornography laws, that sexual pictures of a minor are illegal even if the relationship itself is within the limits of the law.

Do you agree, or disagree with the legal decision?
Should Marshall Hollins spend time in jail for taking pictures of a legal sex act with a 17 year old?


  1. I do not understand why the daughter's privacy were completely trod underfoot. If I were her I would be so furious with mom that I might not ever talk to her again. Prying into computers for children is one thing to protect them is one thing, but reading personal emails is quite another by the time they reach 17 they should be pretty much responsible.
    None of the photos were publicly display to my knowledge, and she agreed to have them taken and sent to her. This was correspondence between 2 people and it should never have got beyond that. I say shame on mom.

    1. I agree that the Mother's invasive tactic is what caused this all to happen . . .

      I'm guessing that Mom was actively working to dissuade her daughter from involvement with a man 15 years older, her snooping was deliberately hoping to find something she could use to destroy the relationship. I'd also guess that mom is thrilled by the fact that this man is destined for jail . . .

      Those are just guesses, but they are consistent with similar behaviors I've observed in other mothers . . .

  2. Hello,
    Hm. There appears to be opposing laws in play. If the law states that all people under a specific age are considered minors and therefore the laws of child pornography apply than yes he committed a crime. There appears to be two different laws in place and therein lies the problem. From a personal point of view I think a man of 34 engaging in an intimate relationship with anyone under the age of 19 is morally and ethically wrong. Those are my beliefs though and are not the law therefore how I feel is not relevant. I genuinely believe that anyone under the age of 19 is still a child and therefore child pornography laws would apply but that is not the case for all countries, for all states, for all provinces and therefore all I can turn to is the law.

    I have a hard time understanding how both laws can be applied when they obviously go against each other. Sounds as though the laws require adjusting and that comes from the people and bills.


    1. I agree that the thought of a 34 year old and a 19 year old together is more than a little weird . . . If I had a daughter that's not exactly the relationship I'd wish for her . . .

      It should also be said that a lot of laws are made simply to correct old ones written poorly or improperly, that much I know for sure . . .

      When it's all said and done, I'm pretty conflicted on this particular issue, that's why I asked to hear reader's opinions. It's pretty rare for me not to have a strong opinion . . . ;)

  3. The age of consent is as arbitrary as the drinking age, the driver's license age, the draft age and a lot of other ages we love to legislate. I've known 13 year old kids that I'd trust with a fifth of whiskey more than a lot of 40 year olds. I've seen 35 year olds and 60 year olds that shouldn't have a driver's license and I've seen 14 year olds with permits that could drive Miss Daisy. I've seen ten year old kids with more hunting safety sense than some 30 year old rednecks with hunting licenses. In my sometimes not so humble opinion, silly and arbitrary laws are the problem here, not a relationship that was possibly every bit as healthy as any other. Another innocent man goes to jail because we, as a society, are afraid of our own shadows. I've always thought a good old fashioned IQ test would make a nice requirement for certain licenses and privileges.

    The mother should be the one in trouble here, maybe a sign around her neck for a month that says "I'm Mrs. Nosy Pants!"


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