The arrest this week of a former Letcher County Central High School athlete is “just the tip of the iceberg” of an investigation into nude photos of minor girls being passed around on cellular phones, Letcher County Attorney Jamie Hatton said.
Koree T. Stewart, 19, of 58 Alaska Avenue, Whitesburg, was arrested Monday and charged with distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor (first offense) after police found nude photos of a teenage girl on his cellular phone.
Allegations contained in an arrest warrant say Stewart’s cell phone contained multiple nude photographs portraying the minor child in a sexual performance, and that Stewart used his cell phone to distribute the offending photos to others in the community.
Hatton expects others will be charged before authorities finish their investigation into the sharing and distribution of nude photos involving Letcher County teens.
“An alarming trend has been brought to the attention of law enforcement and prosecutors in Letcher County,” said Hatton. “Teenagers have been sharing indecent and often nude pictures of themselves and others with their cell phones and oftentimes are not aware of the serious legal consequences of their actions.”
Hatton declined to discuss details of the investigation because juveniles are involved, but said there have been several such crimes prosecuted in Letcher County this school year.
Hatton said that before people decide to send nude photos of themselves they should be aware that by doing so they are committing the crime of indecent exposure, which is punishable by up to 90 days in the county jail if they are an adult or prosecution through the juvenile justice system if they are a minor.
Receiving and being in possession of pictures or videos of a nude minor is a Class D felony punishable by one to five years in prison with the possibility of having to register as a sex offender if convicted. Forwarding or distributing nude photos of a juvenile is also a Class D felony and punishable by one to five years in the penitentiary along with possible registration as a sex offender if convicted.
“Any juveniles in possession of or forwarding said pictures can be prosecuted through the juvenile justice system, with potential confinement in the Breathitt County Juvenile Justice Detention Center if convicted,” said Hatton.
Hatton said his office is mainly targeting individuals who are forwarding nude photos of juveniles to other people.
“Teenagers and young adults must be more responsible in using technology and parents must educate them that this type of behavior will not be tolerated,” said Hatton. “They must be warned of the serious legal and emotional consequences of this behavior that could haunt them for the rest of their lives.
“It’s going to be an ongoing investigation for a long time,” Hatton continued. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg.”