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Pa. Frat's Facebook Pics of Unconscious Women Could Lead to Charges

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on March 18, 2015 11:48 AM

Penn State is once again at the center of a scandal. A Pennsylvania State University fraternity has been suspended for allegedly posting pictures of unconscious and nude women onto two private Facebook pages.

Penn State's Kappa Delta Rho (KDR) has been suspended for one year pending an investigation by police and university officials into the Facebook pages. According to CNN, one page was entitled "Covert Business Transaction"; this page was shut down after a victim complained and was replaced with a second page entitled "2.0."

The pages were discovered by a victim who saw a topless photo of her on a fraternity member's open Facebook page. Other pictures showed unconscious women fully or partially naked in sexual or embarrassing positions, along with drug sales and hazing. Somebody wiped the pages clean before police were able to get a warrant, but authorities were able to find 20 printed images that were originally on the pages.

Police are still investigating and have yet to arrest anybody. However, what could these frat members even be arrested for?

Invasion of Privacy?

One possibility is invasion of privacy. Pennsylvania's statute on invasion of privacy states:

A person commits the offense of invasion of privacy if he, for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of any person, knowingly does any of the following:
(1) Views, photographs ... or otherwise records another person without that person's knowledge and consent while that person is in a state of full or partial nudity and is in a place where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
(2) Photographs ... or otherwise records or personally views the intimate parts, whether or not covered by clothing, of another person without that person's knowledge and consent.

The first section of the statute makes it illegal to take any picture of a person without the person's knowledge and consent if she is in a private place, or where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. This could include the home, a dressing stall, or a bathroom. If charged under this law, KDR members may argue that the girls had no expectation of privacy in the public areas of the frat house where the pictures were taken.

However, Section 2 of the statute prohibits taking pictures of a person's intimate parts without their knowledge and consent, regardless of whether they were in a private place or a public place. Many of the victims depicted in the photographs were fully or partially naked and unconscious, and thus were unable to give consent. The private or public nature of the frat house would be irrelevant in this situation.

Since there were multiple pictures and multiple possible violations, Penn State's KDR members could conceivably be charged with second degree misdemeanors, which can be punished by up to two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Child Pornography?

While many of the victims have yet to be identified, if any of them were under 18 when the pictures were taken, the frat members could also potentially face child pornography charges. Pennsylvania law prohibits photographing or recording a person under the age of 18 in a real or simulated sexual act. Disseminating such materials is also prohibited under this law; mistake of age is not a defense.

As of right now, police have not arrested or charged anybody with any crime, and it may be a while before we see a resolution in this case.

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