Local News

Warrant: Nude student photos online show sex acts

Posted April 21

— Two months after state and local authorities began investigating nude photos of high school students on Instagram, authorities now say some of the photos may also depict sexual activity, according to a recently released search warrant.

Photos of nude boys and girls who authorities believe attend several Wake County high schools began showing up on the social media site in February, prompting a Wake Forest mother to call police after learning about it from her daughter.

Similar incidents were reported in eight other counties – Durham, Chatham, Johnston, Edgecombe, Pitt, Craven, Randolph and Surry counties – and the State Bureau of Investigation was called in to assist with the cases. An SBI spokeswoman said Monday that Alamance, Caswell, Cabarrus and Guilford counties also have become involved in the investigation in recent weeks.

Early on, Wake Forest police subpoenaed Facebook, which owns Instagram, for user information associated with four accounts, and according to a new search warrant, the SBI has subpoenaed information for 15 more accounts.

Seven of those 15 accounts were still active Monday, although they are all set to private.

The application for the SBI search warrant states that investigators are searching for evidence of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor or cyber-bullying.

A parent turned over numerous screenshots of the nude photos to Wake County Public School System officials, who then made them available to investigators, according to an affidavit by an SBI agent in the application.

"Upon review of the screenshots, it was readily apparent that some of the images contained child sexual exploitation and were designed to be embarrassing to the individual pictured," the affidavit states.

Under North Carolina law, second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor is defined as exhibiting or distributing "material that contains a visual representation of a minor engaged in sexual activity."

All four of the Instagram accounts subpoenaed by Wake Forest police "contained images of child sexual exploitation, as well as many instances of nude/semi-nude images of subjects," the affidavit states.

Some of the Instagram accounts authorities are investigating had as many as 1,700 followers, allowing hundreds of people to copy the images, according to the affidavit.

"When you post something online, it's going to stay there forever," said Elvis Cervantes, a student at Broughton High School in Raleigh. "You might delete it, but somebody probably already has it."

Some students displayed a cavalier attitude about photos of them being posted online by others, while other students said they now take more precautions because of the Instagram investigation.

"I don't post any inappropriate things to my friends or any boys or anything. I think it's wrong," Broughton High student Anna Murray said.

"It would be horrible, very horrible," Broughton High student Shamaica McNeill said of having a nude photo posted online. "That's not a great thing to go through."

No arrests have been made in the case, although a Rowan County teen was charged with cyber-bullying in a similar case investigated by local police there.

46 Comments

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  • 678devilish Apr 28, 12:44 p.m.

    If students were taught to have respect for themselves, maybe they would not do that. Parents its your responsibilty to instill this in them, boys or girls certainly.

  • Sweets01 Apr 22, 3:18 p.m.

    I have a teenage son and two younger daughters. I regularly check my son's instagram acct and frequently have him "unfollow" accounts his father and I deem too inappropriate. I can tell you one thing, I abolsutely do not ever want to see nude pics of my daughter at 13 circulating the internet. Yes, teens explore sexuality but that is a line we as parents should hope and pray our children do not cross. I do feel there is a difference now with social medie where someone has a much more difficult time escaping bad decisions than I did in the 90's.

  • mark2345678910 Apr 22, 3:17 p.m.

    Would it be possible to have a warning posted on these websites to the effect of saying these... View More

    — Posted by BigBrokeBill

    It could be possible. Of course, I've already taught my 9 and 11 year old exactly that same thing, so they don't need a banner warning - not that they have an account online anywhere yet anyway. We were just talking about this very investigation the other night at dinner, and what it meant, and what could happen to those pictures.

    Of course, my 9 and 11 year old also know what body parts are correctly called, which is better than what I've seen in 80% of their friends. I always love seeing how embarrassed their friends' parents get when the girls say "vagina".

  • jonara Apr 22, 2:34 p.m.

    Amazing that folks are excusing this.

    And we wonder why we are sinking lower and lower as a... View More

    — Posted by jgriffith3792

    amazing that you think this is the crime of the century. Maybe you should get out more. There is real crime out there. Teenagers going through puberty and doing the typical things associated with it are not crimes and should not be treated as such to ruin the rest of their lives so you can get your jolly's by punishing kids.

  • jonara Apr 22, 2:30 p.m.

    Whoever took the photos should clearly be charged with child pornography; whether it's the... View More

    — Posted by tbg0519

    Typical non thinking zero tolerance nonsense.
    Perhaps you should worry about real crimes. Seems you have too much time on your hands.

  • tbg0519 Apr 22, 1:11 p.m.

    Whoever took the photos should clearly be charged with child pornography; whether it's the boyfriend/girlfriend or even the subject them self. Actions have consequences. It's high time that teens learn that.

  • JAT Apr 22, 1:11 p.m.

    There has to be a common link between these photos. Do the girls not remember who they were with when they were naked? It just seems to me there's something missing that would easily tie everything together.

  • sabsco Apr 22, 1:07 p.m.

    Amazing that folks are excusing this.

    And we wonder why we are sinking lower and lower as a... View More

    — Posted by jgriffith3792

    lol
    No one is excusing it. You're being talked in from the ledge for freaking out that this is... View More

    — Posted by jackaroe123

    Exactly. No one is "excusing" anything. As the father of a teenager I worry constantly about what she is exposed to - just as my parents did 40 years ago when I was my daughter's age and just as their parents did when they were teenagers. The implication that we are all bad parents and our children are all bad children because a tiny minority used modern technology to do what teenagers have ALWAYS done (explore their sexuality - immature though they may be) is overly reactionary to say the least.

  • kikinc Apr 22, 12:53 p.m.

    These articles KEEP saying, "no charges have been filed yet." I'm kinda wondering - who are... View More

    — Posted by sclarkguy

    Unfortunately, you're on the right track. Taking the pictures is producing child porn and... View More

    — Posted by kikinc

    I disagree on one point. Kids risk being labeled sex offenders because the laws are poorly... View More

    — Posted by Alexia

    I absolutely agree that the laws are poorly written. The laws need to catch up with the times. I'd hate to see someone's future destroyed because they took a nude selfie. No one needs to be branded a sex offender for the rest of their lives because of that.

    However, I don't have a lot of sympathy for anyone who posts or distributes those sorts of pictures. Stories such as this pop up in the news on a regular basis now. It should be common knowledge that posting these types of photos for all to see will land you in some hot water.

  • jackaroe123 Apr 22, 12:22 p.m.

    Amazing that folks are excusing this.

    And we wonder why we are sinking lower and lower as a... View More

    — Posted by jgriffith3792

    lol
    No one is excusing it. You're being talked in from the ledge for freaking out that this is some sign of the apocalypse. No, it's the new manifestation of the same unacceptable teenage behavior that has been going on for generations, and we should address it w/o over-reacting.

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