GARDEN CITY, Kansas – At least six Garden City teens could face charges for allegedly texting nude photos of a Garden Citty High School student when she was 13 years old.

In a press release issued Friday, Garden City Police said the investigation started in January of this year when it was reported to school officials who then notified the department.

To read the press release in its entirety, follow this link: GCHS Sexual Exploitation Press Release

It is unclear who took the photos and began sending them to students, however the law indicates that it doesn’t matter.

“The crime doesn’t hinge so much on who took the photo as much as it does who possesses it with the required criminal intent or who transmits it electronically, digitally, or photographically,” said Dan Monnat, a legal analyst.

Police have identified six suspects, ranging from 14 to 18 years old, and two victims, ranging from 14 to 16 years old.

“Sexting is a level five felony which carries a presumed sentence of imprisonment from 31 to 34 months,” said Monnat.

Officers also identified several potential suspects, victims, and witnesses, who are reportedly not cooperating with law enforcement.

KSN learned that there are at least three Kansas state laws that apply to sexting, all of which have already been requested in this case.

Police filed affidavits with the Finney County Attorney’s Office requesting the charges of:

  • Electronic Solicitation of a Child
  • Sexual Exploitation of a Child
  • Promoting Obscenities to Minors, and
  • Interference with a Law Enforcement Officer

The superintendent of Garden City Public Schools USD 457, Rick Atha, Ph.D., gave KSN News the following statement:

“Anytime something like this happens, we go to the police and give them our full cooperation. It was an issue in January and for a short time after, but in the last couple of months it hasn’t been.”

KSN also learned that cases like these could become more interesting in the future as a direct result of this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching cell phones.

“We have to ask a question this week that we wouldn’t have had to ask last week and that is, ‘Did the law enforcement officers here acquire the images from the sexting telephones with a valid search warrant?’ If they didn’t, then the photos cannot be admitted into evidence, and probably, these individuals need to go free of being accused of any crime,” said Monnat.

See video at KSN

KSNW TV – By Brittany Glas

WICHITA, Kan. – Supporters of same-sex marriage in Kansas say they are one step closer to having the ability to marry in their home state, after a ruling that more than likely could end up in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is another huge step forward for equality for LGBT Kansans and Americans who want to be able to marry their partners,” Thomas Witt, executive director for Equality Kansas, said.

The ruling by the 10th Circuit Court in Denver upheld a judge’s ruling in Utah, striking down that state’s same-sex marriage ban. It is binding in 6 states, including Kansas. But the circuit court put an immediate stay on the decision, pending an appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Does the decision of the court necessarily say those law enforcement officials must issue licenses? No, because the 10th Circuit stayed its decision,” legal analyst Dan Monnat said.

In light of the ruling, a county clerk’s office in Boulder, Colorado started issuing licenses to same sex couples. Here in Kansas, officials say a similar result is unlikely, since it is district court employees who issue a license to wed, not elected officials that have the authority to make those decisions.

“They are employees of the districts where they work, so if they’re not being told they can do that, they’re not going to be able to,” Witt said.

The Utah attorney general says it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, which could once again be in the middle of a same-sex marriage debate.

“Whether or not the United States Supreme Court reviews this is a discretionary matter,” Monnat said.

The Utah AG has 90 days to respond to the circuit court ruling an appeal to the Supreme Court. From there, it could be another year or two if the court decides to take on the issue.

KSNW TV – By Felix Rodrigues Lima

WICHITA, Kansas – Individual privacy supporters applauded a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that determined that the contents of cell phones can only be released to law enforcement through a search warrant.

It’s because “a person’s life and their privacy can be reconstructed, said the court, by means of their smartphone,” according to Dan Monnat, a legal analyst.

Local law enforcement agencies tell KSN there will not be much of a change to the way they operate in light of the ruling.

In the case of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s office, they already work with the district attorney’s office to get search warrants, including cell phone records.

“We’re going to have the same procedures,” Lt. David Mattingly said. “It’s the Supreme Court’s decision. It’s not our place to argue that; it’s our place to follow what they say.”

There is concern the ruling could allow suspects to conceal evidence on their cell phone. As it stands, officers are trained to find other things to establish probable cause.

“There’s going to have to be something else tied with other than someone has a cell phone, that the deputy or detective will have to articulate in a search warrant application, and then a judge and district attorney’s office agree with that deputy that probable cause does exist,” Lt. Mattingly said.

In the majority opinion, the justices acknowledged that the ruling could impede some investigations, but considered it a small cost to pay to protect individual privacy.

“If these devices can be used for unlawful means, and the law enforcement officers have particular facts to demonstrate that, it should not be a problem for those officers to get a search warrant,” Monnat said.

KSNW TV – By Felix Rodrigues Lima