Read the full article by Gene Zorkin at YNOT.com

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – In a decision issued late last week, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled by a majority vote of 5-2 that so-called “revenge porn” isn’t Constitutionally protected expression, overturning the ruling of a lower court in criminal case which reaches back to 2016.

The defendant in the case, Bethany Austin, was charged with nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images after she sent family and friends nude images of a woman who she had caught having an affair with her then-fiancé. The messages were Austin’s response to her former fiancé’s claims that their engagement had been broken off because Austin was “crazy and no longer cooked or did household chores,” according to court documents.

Austin’s attorneys moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the Illinois statute is “facially unconstitutional because it is a content-based restriction of speech that is not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling government interest, in violation of the federal and state constitutions.”

A circuit court in McHenry County agreed with Austin and dismissed the charges against her. The State then appealed directly to the Illinois Supreme court, leading to the ruling issued last week.

In rendering its decision, the Court echoed a point made by many in the adult entertainment industry: While commonly referred to as “revenge porn,” the depictions at issue in cases like the one before the court are distinct from images created for commercial distribution with the explicit consent of all people depicted therein.

“The colloquial term ‘revenge porn’ obscures the gist of the crime,” the Court majority wrote in its decision. “Indeed, the term ‘revenge porn,’ though commonly used, is misleading in two respects. First, ‘revenge’ connotes personal vengeance. However, perpetrators may be motivated by a desire for profit, notoriety, entertainment, or for no specific reason at all. The only common factor is that they act without the consent of the person depicted. Second, ‘porn’ misleadingly suggests that visual depictions of nudity or sexual activity are inherently pornographic.”

 

 

Gene Zorkin has been covering legal and political issues for various adult publications (and under a variety of different pen names) since 2002.