Revenge Porn Plot Leads To Criminal Conviction–New York v. Piznarski (Forbes Cross-Post)

22 12 2013

Recently, the California Attorney General’s office got a lot of attention for arresting Kevin Bollaert, the alleged operator of a revenge porn website. While the arrest was widely popular, it raised many questions. Why did the prosecutors seemingly stretch to assert the crime of identity theft; weren’t there more directly applicable crimes? Does this signal an impending tidal wave of revenge porn prosecutions, or is it just a one-off? Does the prosecutors’ reliance on existing law undermine the rationales for California’s recently enacted revenge porn law (which doesn’t take effect for 2 more weeks)? And why didn’t prosecutors prosecute the users who submitted content to the website?

With respect to the latter point, the originators of revenge porn are the prosecutors’ most obvious targets. A recent prosecution in New York show how those prosecutions might look.

The New York Case

Michael J. Piznarski was a student at Colgate University in New York (for more background, see this article and what appears to be his LinkedIn profile). He had a sexual encounter with “victim A,” which he secretly recorded. He subsequently threatened to publicly release the recording unless victim A had sex with him again; when she relented, he secretly recorded that too. A police investigation revealed that he also secretly recorded having sex with “victim B.” A jury convicted Piznarski of “unlawful surveillance” and “coercion.” He was sentenced to 1-3 years in prison (a sentence I believe he is currently serving).


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