FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Detectives on Tuesday arrested a 15-year-old boy accused of recording and selling images of child sex abuse.
The teen, who News4Jax has chosen not to identify, is charged with five counts of possession of child pornography and one count of manufacturing child pornography, according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said it was the first case that resulted in an arrest since his agency launched its cybercrimes units.
“It was astonishing to me was that the suspect was 15-years-old. When I started this unit a couple of months ago, I assumed that we would have our adults trying to be predators on our children, which is what we want to focus on,” Staly said. “To find the first one to be a child himself, creating this child pornography and then selling it on the internet, is really shocking."
According to an arrest report, the Sheriff’s Office cybercrimes unit received cybertips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The report stated the cybertips revealed a name, phone number, date of birth and Gmail account for uploading child abuse images. Evidence showed the images were taken on a Motorola Moto E5 Play. Investigators said they were able to trace the IP addresses to a home in Jacksonville and in the Bunnell area. According to the report, the owners of the two homes had a child in common -- the 15-year-old boy.
At the Bunnell-area home, where the 15-year-old lived with his mother and stepfather, according to the arrest report, investigators searched the teen’s computer and found an email that the teen admitted to using for “trading, sharing and selling child images.” The report said investigators also found the PayPal account, which the teen stated that “he received funds for selling child images.”
The arrest report lists five descriptions of graphic material located on the teen’s phone, including images and videos of children between the ages of 2 and 9 being photographed nude and during abuse.
“He did look and distribute some made by others, but he also made some of his own with children significantly younger,” Staly said.
Staly said what happened after the teen’s arrest didn’t surprise him, but it did disappoint him.
Released back to his guardians
The Sheriff’s Office news release said that when the teen was brought to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Daytona Beach, the facility “refused to accept him" and the teen was released to his guardians.
“The state of Florida has a broken juvenile justice system. I saw it was broken back in the ’90s, and we dealt with it through the Legislature, and it’s broken again,” Staly said.“DJJ is underfunded, so they don’t have the ability to house and keep these offenders, so what happens -- they have created a point system and a kid does not get to a certain point then they are not going to hold him. So, this kid didn’t reach under their system -- the point system -- because they said it’s not a violent crime.”
Staly continued: “Well, I think it is a violent crime when you are taking photos of very young children in, let’s just say provocative poses, and then you are posting and selling them. Those kids will be affected for their entire life because once it gets on the internet, you can’t get rid of it. It’s done.”
Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Communications Director Amanda Slama described what might have happened a little differently. She told News4Jax that, due to juvenile confidentiality, she couldn’t give specifics on the teen’s case.
She did explain the process for screening an incoming juvenile. Slama said, in Florida, juveniles are screened and receive a score using the Detention Risk Assessment Instrument, or DRAI.
“This assessment and score determine the most appropriate placement for a youth upon arrest and prior to their detention hearing before the courts. The use of the DRAI is statewide and is defined in Florida law,” Slama said.
Staly said he wasn’t shocked to hear the teen didn’t have to stay in DJJ’s facility after being accused of manufacturing child sexual abuse images. He said he was disappointed.
“Because not only was he not held, but he went exactly back to the environment that allowed this to happen,” the sheriff said.