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MN judge cracks down on ex-boyfriend’s ‘revenge porn’ case

Michael Weigel’s former partner woke up last December to a stunning email from her ex.

“You will never live in peace. You will live in shame and embarrassment for the rest of your life,” the email said, according to the excerpt the woman read in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday.

Ramsey County sheriff’s office

Michael Weigel, 39

It went on to detail how Weigel had plastered naked pictures of her that the two took while they were still a couple on her new boyfriend’s Facebook page. The photos were attached in the email.

“I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear,” the woman recounted for the court.

She spent weeks crying and panicking as she tried to navigate Facebook’s process for getting the photos removed.

She had to show the images to police officers so that criminal charges could be pursued. She worried the public exposure might cost her her job. Her new boyfriend’s family and friends, some of whom she hadn’t yet met, now had images of her naked body in their minds, she said.

“I will worry about these images for the rest of my life and live with the shame and embarrassment the rest of my life,” she said.

In that sense, Weigel got what he wanted, the woman said.

The 39-year-old Anoka man was the first person charged in Ramsey County under a new state law that took effect during the summer of 2016 that seeks to hold people accountable for so called “revenge porn.”

As such, his ex asked Ramsey County District Judge Stephen Smith to set a precedent with Weigel’s case — ignoring his request to avoid further jail time by sentencing him in accordance with the law.

Smith ultimately did.

He sentenced Weigel to about four months in jail and three years of supervised probation on one count of felony-level nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images.

Two additional counts of the same charge were dismissed.

His attorney, public defender John Reimer, said he believed Weigel was the first person sentenced under the new statute.

Weigel, who pleaded guilty to the charge in August, addressed the judge before receiving his sentence.

He said he relapsed on alcohol and had fallen into a deep depression after his relationship ended.

“I want to start by saying I am incredibly sorry. I have been through breakups before … but never in my life did I fall into the path that I fell into this time,” Weigel said. “I messed up. I messed up so bad and it affected so many people.”

He went on to call his former partner the “love of his life” and said he never meant to hurt her.

He added that he put himself through treatment and therapy and found a new job since he was charged.

The judge said he “appreciated” the actions Weigel has taken to turn his life around but said they couldn’t undo the impact he has had on his ex.

He also questioned Weigel’s statement that he hadn’t meant to cause harm.

“I have a hard time seeing it any other way,” Smith said.

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New Bill Could Make Revenge Porn A Crime In NYC: Gothamist

 


(istockphoto)

 

After years of stalled efforts at the state level, New York City is now pursing its own legislation to criminalize “revenge porn”—the act of sharing explicit photos of a person with the “intention to cause economic, emotional or physical harm.”

Under the new bill, which is expected to get a committee vote in the council next month, sleazy offenders who share “intimate images” without their subject’s consent will face one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. Victims may also pursue civil penalties—including “compensatory and punitive damages”—in the absence of a criminal conviction.

The bill was first introduced by Queens Councilman Rory Lancman last September, and has since gained the support of both Mayor de Blasio and the NYPD.

“It is critically important for the laws in New York City to catch up with our technology to provide protections for New Yorkers from such abuse,” Lancman said in a statement. “Criminalizing revenge porn will ensure perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions, and that victims can receive justice they deserve.”

“These are real victims that we don’t have a tool on the books to actually assist,” NYPD Legislative Affairs Director Oleg Chernyavsky explained during a hearing for the bill earlier this year.

While the city-level legislation is being “primed” for a forthcoming vote in the Public Safety Committee, a similar bill at the state level has languished without a vote for three straight years. “There’s people who blame the victim for taking the pictures or allowing that significant other to take the pictures in the first place,” an anonymous Albany source told the NY Post.

New York is one of just 12 hold-out states that have refused to criminalize revenge porn, though the city’s bill might soon change that, according to Brooklyn attorney Carrie Goldberg, a pioneer in the field of sexual privacy.

“The cost to one’s reputation, finances, safety and overall future as a victim are mind-blowing, and it’s wonderful that our city lawmakers grasp this,” Goldberg told Gothamist.

“Obviously, it’s clear that our local city lawmakers prioritize sexual privacy much more than our state lawmakers—it’s my wish that some day all 20 million New York state residents will get protection.”

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