Concerned Parents Seek Law to Criminalize Photos of Minors Taken by Sex Offenders

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - Augusta police were flooded with complaints last month about a registered sex offender photographing young girls in public and posting those pictures to social media.

Police were unable to charge the man with a crime, so a group of citizens contacted their local representative to try and get a law on the books to protect Maine's children.

"20 years ago if someone wanted to do that, they would have had to stand in the middle of the room with a Polaroid, and they would be noticed. Now everybody has their face stuck in a cell phone and nobody thinks anything of it."

Loraina Laliberte contacted police after receiving messages from friends that a man was posting photos of her daughter that had been taken without the 12-year-old's consent while shopping at Barnes & Nobles.

"Turned out that this individual was a member of the sex offender registry with a conviction of raping a 13 year old girl. That individual was off probation so there was nothing law enforcement could do," said Rep. Pouliot, (R).

"It was horrifying. I was physically ill thinking about it," said Laliberte.

The lifetime sex offender registrant had taken photos of multiple girls in public, including Jessica Sproul's 10-year-old daughter.

"He appeared to be sharing the pictures with other people that were likeminded. There were many comments that were disturbing to read," said Laliberte.

"One of the pictures said 'Sweet little thing,' and another picture that was taken of her backside- the same person that made that comment commented- and said 'it's nice to have an almost full-length,'" said Sproul.

Rep. Matt Pouliot's bill would make it illegal for a registered sex offender to photograph a minor without consent. Concerns over an individual's constitutional rights and civil liberties have some opposed, but Pouliot says the law needs to catch up with technology and our children's safety should take precedent.

"It shouldn't be whether or not this individual has done their time or not done their time, that's irrelevant. What is relevant is are our kids are safe," said Pouliot.

"Even after this hopefully is passed, we'll move forward in making more changes," said Branda Chasse, Laliberte's step-daughter.

A group has organized, using #timeforachange, on social media to spark discussion and invite change surrounding the subject. Sproul says the law would prevent other parents from feeling helpless in such situations.

"He did this and I can't do anything about it, and that was horrible to have to say to her. And now I want to be able to say to her our voices were heard, we're making a change and now if this is done again and they're caught, there is a consequence to that choice," said Sproul.

Police say the incident in question would have been a crime if the sex offender was on probation and had restrictions prohibiting such behavior.