Former FAU Student Sentenced for Child Sex Abuse Material

December 22, 2022 News & Announcements

A former Florida university student has been convicted and sentenced after being accused of grooming and using a computer to entice a minor to engage in prohibited sexual activity.

This article will provide information from a recent case in Florida, along with information on the relevant criminal charges in Florida.

What was the Incident?

Former Florida Atlantic University (FAU) student Shawn Anthony Jackson Outler, 23, was sentenced to 24 years in federal prison after prosecutors say he produced the child sexual abuse material (CSAM) of several minors.

The report states that Outler used social media applications such as Instagram and Snapchat to form online relationships with nine girl victims ranging from 13 to 17. Between 2018-2021, Outler contacted the various victims and forced them to send explicit images and videos, and reportedly belittled or humiliated them if they refused.

In several extreme instances, Outler forced the victims to engage in self-harm, such as cutting or burning themselves. One victim even reported being forced to carve the defendant’s initials into their side. When the victims tried to refuse the degrading acts requested of them, Outler threatened to post the explicit content of the minors online.

Several victims reported that they feared Outler and what he would do if they did not comply with his requests. One victim claimed he forced her to go off her depression and anxiety medications. The youngest victim was only 13 years old, and messages uncovered by the Florida FBI unit showed that Outler messaged the pre-teen that she needed to help him masturbate.

According to the report by FBI agent Gennady Julien, there was probable cause to charge Outler with the use of a computer to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, along with possessing multiple examples of child pornography.

FBI officials arrested Outler from his FAU student housing on March 3rd, 2022. Outler has now been convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison, along with an additional 25 years of supervised release. Outler will also be required to pay restitution to the victims and register as a sex offender upon his release from prison.

Use of a Computer to Entice a Minor

Florida Statute section 847.0135(3) explains that it is unlawful for any person to intentionally lure, solicit, seduce, or entice a child to engage in sexual conduct over a computer. The same statute states that it is illegal for any person to solicit a parent, guardian, or custodian to allow the child to engage in sexual conduct.

In order for the State to convict a defendant accused of using a computer to solicit a minor, the following must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant knowingly used a computer or smart device with internet that was capable of contacting the minor;
  • The victim was a child, or a person the defendant believed to be a child;
  • During the alleged contact between the defendant and the child, the accused person attempted to seduce, lure, solicit, or entice the child victim to engage in any illegal sexual act that is codified under Florida Statute chapters 794, 800, 827.

Any person who violates the above law can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

In addition, the charges may be enhanced if the defendant lied about their own age. For misrepresentation of the defendant’s age, the charges go up to a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Producing Child Sexual Abuse Material Charges in Florida

Florida Statute Sections 847.0135, 847.0138, and 827.071 cover the state laws on child pornography possession, transmission, and production. The most severe penalties in Florida are sentenced to persons who have promoted or produced child pornography particularly if the severity of the crime is enhanced. Under Florida Statute Section 775.0847, an enhancement occurs when the defendant is in possession of 10 or more images of child porn and at least one or more of the following:

  • The minor is younger than 5
  • Sadomasochistic abuse involving a minor
  • Sexual battery involving a minor
  • Sexual bestiality involving a minor
  • Any motion picture, film, video, or computer-generated motion picture, firm, or video involving a child.

With the enhancement, a person accused of promoting or producing child pornography can be charged with a first-degree felony in Florida. A first-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison. The mandatory minimum sentence for promoting or producing child pornography in Florida is between 5-13 years. One thing to point out is that charges are given for each individual piece of child pornography material.

Florida Statute section 827.071 states that an individual is guilty of promoting the sexual performance of a child when he or she produces, directs, or promotes any performance which includes the sexual conduct of a child. Violating this law can result in being charged with a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

In addition to the State Legislature, Federal law prohibits the reception, production, or distribution of any image of child pornography. Under 18 U.S.C §2251, federal law states that it is illegal for any person to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of that specific conduct. According to the Department of Justice, a person who commits or attempts to commit a child pornography offense is also subject to prosecution under federal law. The DOJ also stated that federal jurisdiction is almost always applied when a child pornography violation is committed using the Internet.

A defendant who is charged with a first-time offense of child pornography production may face a statutory minimum of 15 up to 30 years in federal prison. Harsher penalties are given to defendants who have previously been convicted of child pornography charges, or if there were aggravated situations such as:

  • The CP images were violent, sadistic, or masochistic in nature
  • The child victim was sexually abused
  • The offender had prior child sexual exploitation convictions

One important thing to note is that a person accused of child pornography offenses can be prosecuted under both state and/or federal law. To learn more about child pornography charges, read our informative blog here.

Revenge Porn Charges

Although the example case above did not include revenge porn charges, it is still relevant to the subject. Revenge porn is a form of cyber sexual harassment and is defined as the intentional distribution of non-consensual porn. In relation to pop-culture, revenge porn was a common subject in the news with incidents like Pamela Anderson, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Lawrence. Despite the virality of celebrity sex tapes or leaked nude photos, a person who is accused of revenge porn may lead to criminal charges.

Revenge porn is codified under Florida Statute section 784.049, titled “Sexual Cyber Harassment.” The law finds that a person who has been depicted in a sexually explicit image taken with their consent would have the reasonable expectation that the image will remain private, despite sharing with an intimate partner or another person.

By sharing such explicit images online without the person’s consent, the images are able to be viewed indefinitely by persons across the globe and can easily be shared or reproduced. That said, it is becoming more common for individuals to publish sexually explicit images (or videos) of another person on the internet without the depicted person’s consent.

Under state law, “sexually cyber harass” is defined as publishing to the internet or disseminating through electronic means to another person(s) a sexually explicit image of another person with the intent to cause emotional distress to the depicted person.

Any person who violates the above law by willfully and maliciously sexually cyber harasses another person may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. A first-degree misdemeanor has a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

If the accused person has a prior conviction of sexual cyber harassment and commits a second or subsequent offense can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

To learn more about revenge porn read our informative blog here.

Defining Grooming

Due to the nature of the example case, it is relevant to define and explain the concept of grooming. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), grooming is a common tool used by sexual abusers, specifically when the victims are young adults or children.

Grooming is defined as the manipulative behavior(s) that an abuser uses to try and gain access to potential victims and coerces them to agree to the abuse at the risk of reducing being caught. These tactics are most used among children, teens, and vulnerable adults. Grooming can take place in-person or online.

The following is a list of common patterns found in grooming cases:

  • Victim selection – Abusers often observe the possible victims and select them based on ease of access to them or their perceived vulnerability.
  • Gaining access/isolating the victim – Abusers will attempt to separate the victim physically or emotionally from their support system and often seek out positions in which they have contact with minors.
  • Trust development and keeping secrets – Abusers will attempt to gain the trust of potential victims through gifts, attention, sharing “secrets” and other means to make them feel that they have a caring relationship, and train them to keep the contact or relationship a secret.
  • Desensitization to touch and discussion of sexual topics – Abusers will often begin with touching a victim in what appears to be harmless ways, such as hugging or tickling. As time goes on, the touching may become more sexual, and may even introduce the idea of sexual contact.
  • Making their behavior seem natural – Abusers will try to avoid suspicion by making their behavior seem normal, which is usually the case with teenage victims who are relatively close to the age of the adult abuser.

The American Bar Association (ABA) defines grooming as the method offenders use to build trust with a child and the adults around the child in an effort to gain access and time with the child victim. In more extreme cases, the groomer may use threats or physical violence to force to sexually assault or abuse a child.

Although the grooming itself is not currently a crime in Florida, the act of grooming can lead to criminal activity such as the sexual abuse of a child.

How Social Media Can Lead to Criminal Charges

As technology continues to advance, so are the ways that the authorities can use such means as evidence in a criminal case. Social media has been increasingly used as evidence to incriminate persons accused of a criminal offense. This is especially true in cases where incriminating messages were sent through social media.

In the example case above, the defendant was accused of contacting the nine victims through the internet. Both Snapchat and Instagram were used in the commission of the crime. Individuals may assume that temporary messages in apps like Snapchat will forever be erased—and therefore cannot be used as incriminating evidence. However, police have the authority to obtain a warrant to view an accused person’s computer, social media accounts, and IP addresses.

The best way to protect yourself if you have been accused of a crime involving the internet or social media is to work with a skilled defense attorney in your area. An attorney may suggest working with a computer forensic expert witness to review the online material to determine whether the evidence is incriminating.

To find out more about computer forensic expert witnesses, read our page here

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one have been accused of a sex crime involving minors, it is extremely imperative to seek out legal help. The State is known to prosecute to the harshest penalties for cases involving child victims. In addition to paying expensive fines and lengthy imprisonment, a person convicted of sex crimes involving minors will have to register with the Florida Sexual Offender Registry.

Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience representing clients in Florida. We will stand in your corner and fight for your freedom. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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