Samuel Benda, now 21, was charged in with possession of child pornography for having a nude photo of his year-old high school girlfriend on his cellphone, taken on the night of their prom. Benda pleaded guilty to the charge in November The charge was dismissed in July after he successfully completed two years of probation.
Such a legal arrangement is called a stay of adjudication. Once the conditions are satisfied, a judge will clear the defendant of the charges and dismiss the case. While Benda does not have a criminal record in Minnesota, the charges still show up in public records.
The June story is below. In a hotel room two years ago after prom, Samuel J. The photo is a reflection of her and Benda, his hands covering her body.
She is holding the camera. The girl later told a Dakota County judge that she had forgotten about the picture until police came to her house and asked about it. It was her idea to take the photo, she said. Benda was convicted of felony child-pornography possession and is awaiting sentencing.
What seems like a high school romance can lead to a felony conviction and having to register as a sexual offender. And having nude pictures of a minor is technically possessing child porn. The photos and video spread to more than 40 students at school. Louis Park who has defended teens accused of sex crimes. In Minnesota, adults and juveniles convicted of felony criminal sexual conduct or child-pornography possession must register as a sex offender for 10 years. Those who register must tell authorities where they live, work and go to school and what vehicle they drive.
Some parents and attorneys say the consequences should be less severe for a young adult who has a consensual sexual relationship with a minor. But no organized movement exists in the state to change the laws. Other states have changed their laws to differentiate consensual sex from predatory crimes. Michigan has adopted similar legislation, and Illinois and California groups are pushing for those laws, too. A college already rejected his son because of his conviction, he said.
The relationship started months earlier when he was The girl told police she and Knowlton had sex up to 10 times during the summer, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. The girl also said she specifically recalled having sex with Knowlton on July 20 — three days after his 18th birthday. Knowlton pleaded guilty to the charge in March, but the conviction will be wiped from his record if he successfully completes five years of probation.
Knowlton was required to undergo treatment for sex offenders. He was banned from Simley and from having contact with girls younger than age He was ordered to 30 hours of community work service and three days in jail.
Attempts to reach Knowlton for comment were unsuccessful. Tsistas Yang went to high school with Knowlton. County attorneys say they consider several factors before prosecuting these cases. The criminal sexual conduct law was last amended in The child-pornography law was changed in Nowadays, sexually explicit pictures texted by kids can be considered child pornography, Choi said. Changing the laws to allow some teens and young adults to forgo registration as sex offenders is something the Legislature should consider, he said.
Depending on the age of those involved, the acts can be illegal. In most cases, parents blow the whistle on these types of relationships by calling police, which can lead to charges and lawsuits against the alleged perpetrator. Villaume specializes in lawsuits involving minors who have been victimized by sexting and sex acts. The suits typically are against schools and employers where the crimes have occurred and have sometimes turned into cyber-bullying and harassment, he said.
These days, more teens and their families are coming forward wanting to pursue such lawsuits, Villaume said. Nowadays, many schools have presentations about sexting and cyber-bullying. Schools also have adopted student policies to prevent sexting and cyber-bullying. Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said he visits schools regularly to teach kids about the laws. Ramsey County Attorney Choi also speaks at schools. Jenna Strole, 17, who will be a 12th-grader at Lakeville South High School in the fall, remembers a lecture about the topic in middle school.
Kids know about the laws, she said. Korina Nitti, 41, of Rosemount said teenagers know right from wrong. But these days, kids get into trouble at a younger age, she said.
Nitti lets her sons, ages 12 and 11, have Facebook pages and cellphones. But she closely monitors them. Today, when he sees kids he knew from high school, they ignore him.
He hates leaving his house. Unlike the music college he initially applied to, Inver Hills accepted Benda — even with the conviction on his record. When that relationship happened, police say, Benda was 19 and the girl was But Benda, whose birth date was in question because he was born in Sierra Leone, argued that he was younger.
At trial, his attorney, Lauri Traub, presented an authenticated Sierra Leone birth certificate, stating Benda was born in , meaning he would have been 17 years old at the time of the alleged crimes. When juveniles face child-porn possession and criminal sexual conduct charges, the punishments are usually less severe than those for adults, said Dakota County Attorney Backstrom.
Unlike adult sentences, juvenile punishments are at the discretion of the court and could include detention, out-of-home placement, counseling or community service.
But as an adult, the charges could lead to years of probation, a jail sentence and possibly prison. Sentences would likely be more severe if the convicted person has a criminal record. Benda was previously convicted of felony assault after a school fight. Benda plans to argue that he was a juvenile when the picture was taken, which could mean a lesser sentence.
But regardless of his punishment, Benda said he still will be labeled a sex offender. Maricella Miranda can be reached at Follow her at twitter. In Minnesota, the age of consent for sex is It is third-degree criminal sexual conduct to have sex with anyone younger than 13 if the offender is no more than three years older.
The same charge applies if the minor is 13 to 16 years old and the offender is more than two years older. A more-severe charge with harsher penalties may apply if the age gap is greater.
Population growth, new bridge spur road realignment in Lake Elmo June 16, , 8: Roettger has seen dozens of collisions and near-smashups at Manning's intersection with Stillwater Boulevard, just outside the Holiday gas station she manages. On a recent Wednesday morning at MacPhail Center for music in downtown Minneapolis, the chorus comes together for And there's more on the way.
Some areas could see 2 to 5 inches of rain Paul children's author Nancy Loewen found herself in a transition two years ago. She had just become an empty-nester, and she wanted to find something meaningful to do with her time — something she was passionate about. So when she discovered the Minnesota Reading Corps, Loewen — who has written more than children's books — found an intersection