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Hall County revenge porn case tests new state law
Legislation passed in 2014 seeks to control unconsented nude pictures online
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Before a new Georgia law was enacted, authorities fielding complaints from people over nude pictures uploaded on the Internet without their consent would often direct the victims to take civil action.

“The law came about with the fact that law enforcement was hamstrung on being able to do anything in those type of cases,” said state Rep. Kevin Tanner, R-Dawsonville, who sponsored HB 838 in the 2014 session.

Since its activation July 1, 2014, the law has given authorities more power when a person allegedly posts such images online. One of the first applications of the law happened in Hall County, according to Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh.

Kevin Allen Payne, 48, of Norcross, was indicted in Hall County on two counts of sexually explicit electronic transmissions.

The Sept. 22 indictment claims Payne “did knowingly post a nude picture of (the victim) without her permission and with the intent to harass and intimidate her through an electronic transmission.” The indictment said it occurred last Nov. 9 and Nov. 15.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigators received a complaint in November from a woman claiming Payne posted nude pictures of her online without her consent, according to Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes.

“During the course of the investigation, investigators did determine that there had been lewd images uploaded on a website,” Bailes wrote in an email. “It was later determined that the images were uploaded as a result of a civil matter that the two were going through.”

The victim in this case declined comment.

Multiple attempts to reach Payne’s attorney Mike Weaver for comment were unsuccessful.

Tanner said he has heard of some cases around the state utilizing the law change since its passage.

“In most cases, law enforcement had no alternatives to get involved,” Tanner said. “They had no direction, no law to bring that had been broken. It was purely a civil matter, and many times in these cases, civil action wouldn’t stop the individual from the harassment for various reasons.”

Tanner said the law followed the model by other states, particularly after hearing from people being continually harassed through these online posts.

“It can have a great deal of financial burden that’s placed on the individual and also just the loss of reputation,” Tanner said.

The law makes the first offense a misdemeanor, a decision Tanner said was to protect teenagers and young adults from being charged with felonies for youthful indiscretions and bad decision-making.

Tanner offered a scenario of a college-aged couple with a spurned boyfriend taking to social media to post nude photos of his ex in anger.

“We didn’t want to necessarily cause him to lose the ability to become a productive citizen because he’s now tagged with a conviction as a felon,” Tanner said.

On a second or subsequent conviction, however, the offense becomes a felony and is punished by one to five years in prison and/or a maximum fine of $100,000.

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