The three teenagers regularly shared silly videos, trying to one-up each other and trusting the group text messages would remain private.
But one especially sensitive text did not stay among them — landing the teen who first sent it at the center of a novel court case over a sexually explicit video she made and shared of herself.
Maryland’s highest court will soon decide whether state laws intended to stop child pornography apply when the child is both the subject and the sender of the graphic material.
The case stands out for its unusual circumstances even in a “sexting” era when judges, lawmakers and prosecutors throughout the country struggle with how to reconcile laws crafted before the era of cellphone videos with evolving technology and teen behavior.
In the Maryland case the then-16-year-old sent her one-minute video to the three-person group text chain.
A few months later, the group “fell off as friends,” according to court records, and the students who received the text shared a copy with their school resource officer from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. By then, too, one of the teens had shared the video with other students, court files show.
The only teen charged was the teen who made the video of herself, according to the county prosecutor, setting off the chain of court action now awaiting a ruling from the Maryland Court of Appeals.
Prosecutors in some states have charged teens with possession or distribution of child pornography. In a Fairfax County case, three teenage boys were found guilty in 2013 of unlawfully producing videos of teen girls. They initially faced more serious child pornography charges.