In 90 Seconds: Revenge Porn
No cases have been filed in Tarrant County under a 2-year-old state law that made "revenge porn" illegal, but more than 130 cases have been filed under two similar laws since 2009, according to the district attorney's office.
Revenge porn — when someone posts sexually explicit photos and videos of an ex online to get revenge after a breakup — has been in the news over the last week after a nude photo of U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, was leaked online.
Some have suggested that Barton was a victim of revenge porn, and federal lawmakers on Tuesday began a push toward making such acts a federal crime.
They were specifically made illegal in Texas in 2015, when state lawmakers passed and Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Relationship Privacy Act. The law made revenge porn a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of $4,000.
Prosecutors could also pursue charges in revenge-porn-type instances under the current "invasive visual recording" law.
Some 72 cases have been prosecuted as invasive visual recordings in Tarrant County, prosecutor Lori Varnell said Tuesday. Before that, 61 cases had been prosecuted under the improper photography law.
One of the first notable such cases was one Varnell prosecuted in 2014.
Philip Welch Ingram, 28, pleaded guilty to improper photography after he was accused of sending videos of himself having sex with his ex-girlfriend to her email contacts.
Ingram and the victim were living together when he hid a device to record the two engaged in sex, police said. After their breakup, Ingram harassed and threatened the woman, and then sent excerpts of the sex videos to the victim's email contacts.
The woman did not know about the hidden-camera videos until Ingram sent them to her contacts, police said.
Ingram received five years' deferred adjudication probation. Efforts to reach him or his last known attorney Tuesday were not immediately successful.
While the 2015 state law specifically targets revenge porn, the challenge, Varnell said, is getting victims to come forward, especially if they are underage.
"This crime goes on much more than we know about," Varnell said. "I think it goes on all the time in our junior highs and high schools in this county. A lot of the victims are underage, and the last thing they want is to have their parents know."