An 18-year-old pleaded guilty to reduced charges Thursday in Vermont's first "sexting" case, in which he allegedly directed two teenage girls to videotape or photograph themselves performing sex acts and send him the results.
Isaac Owusu, of Morrisville, was sentenced to up to two years in prison but will serve 90 days after pleading guilty to two counts of committing a prohibited act and one count of lewd and lascivious conduct.
Sexual assault charges originally lodged against him were dropped as part of the plea, as were two counts of promoting a sexual recording.
The deal was offered in part because the state Legislature recently passed a law decriminalizing sexting.
"We respect the process in Montpelier," said Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan. "We understood their point. We heard what they said. And as a result, we dismissed what is called the 'sexting' (charges)."
He said the sexual assault charges were the focus of the prosecution to begin with.
Earlier this year, Vermont enacted a new law that allows minors charged with a first offense of "sexting" to be declared delinquent in juvenile court and sent to a diversion program, not prosecuted as adults or put on the state's sex offender registry.
"Sexting" is generally defined as using a computer or other electronic device to transmit an indecent picture of oneself. Vermont's law also applies to people who possess a picture of a minor that has been received through sexting.
In passing the measure, lawmakers said they didn't want teenagers going to jail as sex offenders or being labeled as such for the rest of their lives for something so foolish.
Owusu — a former standout athlete at South Burlington High School — contended the girls were willing participants in the December incident.
Under the plea, the sexual assault charges were downgraded and Owusu got a five-year deferred sentence on the lewd and lascivious count. That means he will serve no jail time for it unless he violates probation.
His lawyer, Leroy Yoder, didn't return a telephone call seeking comment.