LAKE CITY — An 18-year-old Lake City man was arrested following an investigation into photographs he allegedly exchanged with a 15-year-old girl from White Lake.
The case began in April 2019 when a family compliance liaison from the Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy, a full-time online public school academy, contacted Michigan State Police troopers from Houghton Lake Post to report the incident, according to a MSP press release.
An investigation revealed evidence that the male suspect had sent a nude photograph to the 15-year-old and that she had also sent a partially nude photo to him, police said.
The creation, dissemination, and possession of images depicting a person under the age of 18 for any reason is a crime, police said.
Police said both teens were students through Great Lakes Virtual Academy and met using an online messaging board associated with the school.
The subjects in this case appear to have never met in person and it’s not entirely clear if the two knew each other’s ages, but it doesn’t matter if ages are known or not, it’s still a crime, said MSP Seventh District spokesman Lt. Travis House.
House said in a case like this it’s the responsibility of the defender to make sure the person they are engaging with is an appropriate age. He said it doesn’t seem like there was coercion and looks like both people sent the photos willingly.
It does not appear the 15-year-old will be charged, he said.
Police said the Missaukee County Prosecutor reviewed the case and issued a two-count felony warrant charging the Lake City man with children-distributing obscene matter to, and children-accosting for immoral purposes.
The suspect turned himself on July 5 and was released on bond prior to arraignment. He has not been arraigned yet, House said.
Police can go through computers in an investigation and the computers belonging to both subjects had to be seized and searched, which should be incentive enough to avoid this type of situation, he said.
Police said this case highlights the need to educate young people on the dangers of sharing personal information and/or unclothed photographs online. Parents are urged to share with their children the dangers and illegalities of sharing these photos, even if they believe they can trust the recipient.