“It almost makes you aghast to see how serious this stuff gets,” said John Leunig, a criminal attorney in St.Louis Park who has defended teens accused of sex crimes.
Some parents and attorneys say the consequences should be less severe for a young adult who has a consensual sexual relationship with a minor.But no organized movement exists in the state to change the laws.Benda didn’t question his 17-year-old girlfriend when she took a naked picture of herself in the mirror on his cellphone. “I didn’t think.” Now, her former boyfriend is facing serious consequences.The photo is a reflection of her and Benda, his hands covering her body. The girl later told a Dakota County judge that she had forgotten about the picture until police came to her house and asked about it. Benda was convicted of felony child-pornography possession and is awaiting sentencing.In Minnesota, adults and juveniles convicted of felony criminal sexual conduct or child-pornography possession must register as a sex offender for 10 years.
Those who register must tell authorities where they live, work and go to school and what vehicle they drive.
Michigan has adopted similar legislation, and Illinois and California groups are pushing for those laws, too.
Benda’s father, James Benda, said teens convicted of these crimes face an uphill battle when looking for jobs and going to college because of the social taboos of sex offenders.
5, 2015: Samuel Benda, now 21, was charged in 2011 with possession of child pornography for having a nude photo of his 17-year-old high school girlfriend on his cellphone, taken on the night of their prom.
Benda pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2012. The charge was dismissed in July 2014 after he successfully completed two years of probation.
Teens and young adults sometimes aren’t aware of the possible criminal consequences of dating someone underage, attorneys say.