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‘Revenge porn’ bills get hearings

by caprecord

When computer technician Jeremy Scott Walters took a customer’s nude photos from her computer and threatened to post them online unless she “played along,” the woman said police did not take her seriously at first.

The woman told a House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at a hearing on HB 1624 that Walters posted her intimate photos on a website where people post nude images of women with the intent of humiliating them, and links were sent to her family and friends.

The practice commonly is called “revenge porn,” though in this case, the only contact that the woman had with Walters was when she hired him to transfer her files from one computer to another.

After months of investigation, King County prosecutors charged Walters with computer trespass of four women whose nude or topless photos were posted online, and he was sentenced in December to a year in prison, according to news reports at the time.

“The process was long and arduous and painful,” the victim told the House Judiciary Committee. The woman spoke to the committee without identifying herself by her full name.

The woman testified on a bill that would set a civil penalty of at least $10,000 in restitution to the victims. The House will hear two other bills on Friday that would criminalize distributing intimate images of a person without that person’s consent.

Gary Ernsdorff of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office said the bills would help stop cyberstalking, which is a complicated crime to prove.

“It took us about five months and about a dozen search warrants before we had a complete picture of what revenge porn was and how it affected victims in an extreme fashion,” he said.

While some cases may be of an angry person getting back at a former girlfriend, that was not the case for Walters, Ernsdorff said.

“This was a person who was doing it, frankly, just to be cruel,” he said.

Ernsdorff said when victims contact the website, they are told they must pay $500, deposited into a foreign account, to have the images removed from the site.

“They are completely law-enforcement unfriendly by design,” he said. “Their business model is extortion.”

The violation still affects her life, the woman told lawmakers, forcing her to put her name and face out in the public in her efforts to stop the activity.

“Requiring me to be courageous and brave and having this be more upfront than I wanted this to be in the first place,” she said.

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