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Should South Carolina Pass A ‘Revenge Porn’ Law?

Upstate mayor’s case draws focus on legislation introduced by former Democratic lieutenant gubernatorial nominee …

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A criminal investigation into a leaked sex tape starring the mayor of Belton, South Carolina has sparked debate in the Palmetto State over the issue of “revenge porn” – and whether a law should be passed to protect those who find themselves victimized by jaded ex-lovers (or others in possession of materials depicting them in flagrante delicto).

First, some background on the case that has put this issue back on our radar …

As we reported yesterday, first-term Belton mayor Tiffany Ownbey is the alleged star of an undated “pornographic video” recently posted to social media, according to The Belton/ Honea Path News Chronicle.

The paper also reported Ownbey was the focus of an alleged blackmail plot in connection with the video.

According to a statement issued on Thursday by Ownbey’s attorney, Druanne White, one of the mayor’s former boyfriends “secretly videotaped a private intimate encounter on his cell phone without Tiffany’s consent.”

“This same man later admitted to Tiffany that he had secretly recorded her,” the statement continued. “He threatened to publicly distribute the recording if she broke up with him. Tiffany informed him that she would press charges if he did so.”

The video – and the circumstances surrounding its publication – are now the focus of a S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigation after a request was made of the agency by Belton police chief Robert W. Young, Jr.

Can prosecutors bring charges in this case, though? Especially considering South Carolina has no “revenge porn” law?

That is a good question …

(Click to view)

(Via: Belton Mayor’s Office)

Ownbey (above), 34, was elected mayor of Belton last November. She issued a statement this week calling for the state to pass a revenge porn law “with tough penalties.”

“If it happened to me it can happen to ANY female,” she wrote. “If YOU have been a victim of or threatened with blackmail and ‘revenge porn,’ don’t remain silent. You are not alone.”

Leading the effort to outlaw revenge porn in South Carolina is state representative Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster, S.C. – the 2018 Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

Norrell has filed bills on this issue in several previous sessions of the S.C. General Assembly. Her most recent bill – H. 4088 – was filed last February.

“Revenge porn shouldn’t happen to anyone,” she told us. “It’s despicable. But when it does, law enforcement should have all the tools necessary to prosecute it.  I introduce a revenge porn bill every session, but other priorities win out. It’s just not on the radar of many legislative leaders because it doesn’t affect them. Stories like Mayor Ownbey’s show why it’s needed.”

Norrell’s bill would make it unlawful for “a person, absent a clear public purpose, to disseminate or sell any picture, drawing, video recording, film, digital electronic file, or other visual depiction or representation of these created by any means, or any reproduction of a picture, drawing, video recording, film, digital electronic file, or other visual depiction or representation of these that depicts another person in a state of sexually explicit nudity.”

The person disseminating the material must also know or have “reason to know” that they are not “licensed or privileged” to sell or spread such sensitive information – which would cause “emotional distress or embarrassment” to the victim.

As written, the proposed violation would be a misdemeanor – with a maximum fine of $1,000 and/ or a maximum prison term of one year. However, Norrell told us this week she wants to strengthen those penalties.

What do you think? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …

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