Cunningham was charged under a New Jersey statute that makes it a crime to distribute sexual images of someone without that person’s consent. The 10-year-old law was the first in the nation to make the spreading of such images a crime.
Lawyers familiar with cyber invasion of a personal privacy say distribution of the explicit images is an ever-growing problem fed by the rapid advance of personal electronic devices and expansion of social media.
“We don’t have our phones within an arm’s length. We have them in our hands,” said Carrie Goldberg, a Brooklyn lawyer who focuses on issues of invasion of sexual privacy.
Cunningham was arrested at his Summit apartment Dec. 29 in what authorities said was a domestic violence case. He was charged with spreading the sexual images, and charged with criminal mischief for allegedly destroying clothes. Police also charged him with illegally having a .380 handgun in the glove compartment of his car.
Cunningham has pleaded not guilty and his lawyer says he will fight the charges.
Prosecutors have released no information about a motive in the case, but Goldberg said it fits the criteria for invasion of privacy.
Though often commonly called “revenge porn,” Goldberg says that’s a misnomer catch-all phrase referring to any disclosure of sexual pictures without the person’s consent.
“The motive is not really relevant. It could be a hacker who’s just putting the images out there for kicks,” Goldberg said.
“Regardless of the motive, the harm and humiliation to the victim are the same,” she said.
Mary Anne Franks, an associate professor a the University of Miami Law School, refers to it as “non-consensual pornography.”
New Jersey became the first state in the nation to make unauthorized spreading of a person’s sexually explicit images a crime when it passed the law in 2004, said Franks, who has helped draft similar statutes in other states.
Currently 16 states have laws outlawing the distribution of such images, but with 13 states enacting the measure over the last 18 months, she said.
Goldberg credits New Jersey with aggressively pursuing the issue. In one case, she said, a man was sentenced to six months in jail.
“New Jersey is serious about prosecuting people,” she said.
The third-degree crime carries a maximum sentence upon conviction of five years in prison.
Jets Linebacker Jermaine Cunningham faces charge of so-called revenge porn
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