Philadelphia Criminal Law News

Neil Geckle: When is Child Porn Actually Child Porn?

There seems to be a very strange case afoot in Radford, Pennsylvania, reports CBS Philly. A strange, and very creepy, 19-year-old is behind bars for a litany of child porn charges, yet some are wondering if Neil Geckle’s photo shoots actually qualify as child porn. If so, this might be one of the bigger reaches of all of the child porn prosecutions to date.

Police say that Geckle really likes Facebook. He really, really likes Facebook. In fact, he likes it so much that he would allegedly sit in his grandmother’s bedroom, download images of high school girls off of their Facebook profiles, and then masturbate to the photos, reports the Daily News. These girls went to the same high school as Radford but were in the years below him. He would then take a picture of his penis next to the photo and then post some of the photos on the girls’ Facebook walls.

Now, no one is going to argue that what he did wasn't odd, disturbing, and insanely creepy. But, should it qualify as child porn when none of the pornographic parts of the images were of minors? Though three of the four victims were under 18, the girls themselves were not engaging in any sexual activity in the photos. The only pornographic part of the photos was the man's (19-year-old) penis.

Geckle's borderline case brings to mind an Australian case where a man was convicted of child porn charges for possessing simulated images of the children from the Simpsons cartoon engaging in sexual activity.

Meanwhile, child porn laws here at home have followed an interesting path through the legal system, reports The New York Times. A 1996 law that would have banned simulated images, such as the Simpsons cartoons, was overturned by the Supreme Court for being overbroad and infringing on the First Amendment right to free speech.

Currently law requires prosecutors to prove that the image contains a real person, while under 18, engaged in simulated or real sex acts. A 2003 law that prohibited offering or selling child pornography, even if the images were fake, was upheld by the same court.

According to the statute, "any visual depiction ... where such visual depiction has been ... modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct" counts for purposes of child porn.

For Neil Geckle, as odd as this may sound, his guilt may just depend on how he depicted his genitalia. If it was placed in such a way as to simulate sex acts, then this could possibly be on the outermost bounds of child porn. But if his genitals were simply plopped on the page, with no reason or order, then claiming that there is a simulated sex act would be a bit of a stretch.

The prosecutor might also want to look at the intent of the statute and question whether it was meant to apply to the case here, as well as whether the punishment of a long prison sentence and becoming a registered sex offender fits the crime. In the end, Neil Geckle's case could completely redefine child porn, as well as permanently associate his name with the field of law.

Related Resources: