Sunday, May 1, 2016

Use a Phone, Go to Jail

Levar Allen was charged with contributing to the delinquency of juveniles and possession of child pornography.
Black Teenage Boy Charged with Possession of Child Porn for Sexting with White Girlfriend  By Daniel Politi April 30 2016

Sexting may be common among teenagers but for one 17-year-old black boy from Louisiana it could be an act that will haunt him for the rest of his life. His family says race clearly played a role in why Levar Allen, a three-sport high school athlete, was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile and possession of child pornography after sexting with his 16-year-old white girlfriend.

“A little girl sent him a video, she was 16. He sent her a video and he got charged,” Allen’s mother, Chasity Washington, said. She says race has played a factor in the arrest. "I think because she's white, the parents got upset that she's been doing what she's been doing,” she said. Washington is hardly alone. 

"Millions upon millions of teenagers are doing this very thing and he was selectively targeted among them, and made an example of, because he crossed a line that clearly irritated not only her white parents but white law enforcement officers as well," notes the New York Daily News’ Shaun King

Bossier Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Bill Davis was quick to push back against any suggestion that race played a role in the charges. "I have nothing to say about that. It doesn't matter what your race, what your religion, what your ethnicity, don't do child pornography! Plain and simple," he said.

Lt. Bill Davis’s protests aside, it does seem likely that race was a factor in the choice to prosecute.  But it isn’t all about race.  There’s sexism here too. And there’s something else:

“The Louisiana legal Age of Consent for sexual contact is 17 years old. There are a total of nine states that have a legal age of consent of 17.

Felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile is committed when a person who is nineteen years of age or older has sexual intercourse, with consent, with a person who is between twelve and seventeen years of age. Misdemeanor carnal knowledge of a juvenile is committed when a person who is between seventeen and nineteen years of age has sexual intercourse, with consent, with a person who is between fifteen years and seventeen years of age, and when the difference between the age of the victim and age of the offender is greater than two years.”

There are no set close-in-age exemptions or "Romeo and Juliet laws" to Louisiana's age of consent. This means that anyone who engages in sexual activity with someone under the age of consent in Louisiana is liable for prosecution, including people only a few years older than their sexual partner and even two individuals who are both under the age of consent.  Source

All this means that Levar is about to get shafted because he is the “wrong race”, “the wrong age”, and lives in the “wrong state.”  

I find this unutterably sad.  Two teenagers were exploring their sexuality in a way that was, yes, probably ill-advised; and one of them may go to prison for it.  Teenagers are, by and large, curious about sex, laced with rampaging hormones, and apt to takes risks in their explorations.  This is completely normal.  

It is by the ubiquity of the smartphone that this sort of socio-sexual interaction can take place.  And maybe there’s an upside to it.  One can’t get an STD from watching a video of one’s girlfriend/boyfriend.  Nor can a girl be impregnated by viewing a video of her boyfriend masturbating.  The downside is that it may not remain private.  It is not only horrified, angry and embarrassed parents who can get hold of these little videos.  

I can only hope that somehow, Levar will not go to prison, that he will be allowed to finish his high-school education and that his punishment will be light, and his life can go on safely and productively.  He seems like a good kid, from a decent home.  

And Levar’s girlfriend, who was not a victim here, but rather a willing participant in a digital video conversation, will undoubtedly experience some negative fallout from this series of events.  What must she be feeling?  Perhaps she really cares for Levar.  Perhaps they had agreed to wait for actual body-to-body physical sex.  Perhaps this was their way of delaying an act that was the stuff of sweet dreams, but a commitment they were not ready to make. 

Levar and his girlfriend are two teenagers, a few months apart in age.  They were doing things that teenagers commonly do.  They are not criminals, nor should they be treated as such.  My heart goes out to the young man whose picture looks out of my computer monitor at me.  He looks frightened.  He should do.  Young men like him are shot and killed by police every day.  Many times for no good reason.

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