Dad hopes to change website law

Photo by Lauren Kravets

Photo by Lauren Kravets

COVINGTON -- Newton County resident Randy Upton is hoping to change state law so that what happened to his 16-year-old daughter will never happen again without the perpetrator facing criminal charges.

Upton said he learned in November that his daughter's cell phone number and personal information had been attached to sexually explicit photographs of another person on a pornographic website. Upton subsequently contacted local law enforcement, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was notified.

GBI spokesman John Bankhead said Friday the GBI investigation is ongoing.

"We're wrapping it up now and will turn it over to the DA for her review," Bankhead said.

However, Upton said he has been told that because the posting was apparently not a crime, no charges could be filed against the individual who did the posting.

Upton said the GBI was able to determine that a male college student who had gone to high school with his daughter had posted the information because he thought the images on the website resembled her.

"I have worked 35 years in law enforcement and I felt I had done everything I could do to protect my daughter," said Upton, a former GBI agent. "I was not prepared for someone who would maliciously and deliberately put my daughter's information on a pornographic website."

Upton said he learned that the perpetrator initially attached his daughter's personal information to the sexually graphic images of an unidentified female, then went back four days later and put her telephone number with the images.

"After he put in her name and number, he thought maybe he shouldn't have done that, but the website wouldn't allow him to retract this information," Upton said of the perpetrator.

The Uptons learned of the posting after a 55-year-old man from Iowa sent his daughter a text message. After researching the man's phone number, the man was contacted and said that he got the phone number from a sexually explicit website.

"This individual placed my daughter in grave danger by associating her name and cell phone number with the pornographic images," Upton wrote to the Citizen. "As a parent, we've monitored all of her social networks (iPhone, Facebook and MySpace), and I never would have imagined that someone would or could attach her personal information to a pornographic image and endanger her life."

Upton said that his daughter's cell phone number has since been changed, but he wants more to be done to protect her and other teens from similar violations.

He said the fact that no charges can be filed is clearly an example of how statutes have not kept up with technology.

"A law needs to be established to make this a crime," Upton said.

He's already contacted lawmakers at the state and federal levels to get their assistance, and he's speaking out to the media to raise awareness. He said he and his daughter decided it would be best to talk about the incident so that it might help "other young girls and young guys who might do something stupid."

"What I told (my daughter) is that if it happened to you, there's potential for others," Upton said.

Though no criminal charges can be filed in this case, Upton said he intends to file a civil suit against the individual who did the posting.

"He is a college student, so the probability of getting anything (is low), but it is the principle of it," he said.