University of Southern California

You Can Touch, But You Can't Look: Examining the Inconsistencies in Our Age of Consent and Child Pornography Laws

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Note by MacKenzie Smith
From Volume 87, Number 3 (March, 2014)

Thirty-two-year-old Eric Rinehart was a former police officer and member of the Indiana National Guard. He was going through his second divorce, he had custody of his seven-year-old son, and he had no criminal record. During this time, perhaps against his better judgment, he began two sexual relationships with young women, aged sixteen and seventeen. Although the young women were much younger in age, both of Rinehart’s sexual relationships were consensual and entirely legal. Under Indiana state law, the legal age of consent for sexual intercourse is sixteen.

During the course of his relationship with one of the young women, Rinehart lent her his digital camera after she suggested, based on her past experiences with other partners, that she use it to take provocative photographs of herself. When she returned the camera, Rinehart found pictures of the young woman engaged in “sexually explicit conduct.” Following this event, Rinehart photographed the same young woman engaged in similar sexual activities. In addition, Rinehart created “short videos of himself and [the second young woman] engaged in sexual intercourse.” All the photos and videos were taken with the knowledge and consent of his sexual partners. All of the images were uploaded onto Rinehart’s home computer, but none were distributed to a third party, nor was there evidence that Rinehart intended to do so.

After a grand jury hearing, Rinehart was charged with “two counts of producing child pornography . . . and one count of possessing child pornography,” to which he pled guilty. With the agreement of the prosecution and the defense, Rinehart was sentenced to fifteen years in federal prison. In a written sentencing explanation, Judge David F. Hamilton of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana explicitly expressed his discomfort with the harsh sentence he was forced to impose and his hope that it would be overturned through an exercise of presidential executive clemency. Short of such an act, Rinehart’s projected release date is February 25, 2020.

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