A father accused of forcing his two daughters to watch online pornography has been charged with child endangerment, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Randall County District Attorney James Farren said last year that he wanted to charge Jack A. Buckner II using the state's indecency law but believed he couldn't because the law allows parents to show "harmful material" to their children.
Farren charged Buckner with two counts of child endangerment on Monday after Texas' attorney general advised Farren that he could prosecute the Amarillo father using a different statute.
Jack Buckner's wife, Jennifer Buckner, said Tuesday that he had no comment. She said he does not have an attorney.
Buckner is accused of placing his 8- and 9-year-old girls in danger of imminent mental impairment by showing them pornography while they were visiting him. The girls' parents are divorced and shared custody of them.
"I'm sad because it's my daughters' dad," said the girls' mother, Crystal Buckner. "I'm glad that justice is going to be done and no one else can do what my ex-husband did. Even though he did do this he's still their dad."
Told girls to look
The Associated Press typically does not publish the names of parents if it could identify children who might have been abused, but Crystal Buckner is seeking publicity about the case so the indecency law changes.
Crystal Buckner says the incident happened early last year at her ex-husband's home. Her three children were watching a movie, though the youngest one had fallen asleep. Buckner said the girls' father was at his computer and told the girls to come look at what was on the screen.
Farren wanted to charge Buckner under the indecency law, which apparently was written to protect the privacy of parents who want to teach their children about sex. It states that parents can't be prosecuted for showing "harmful material" to their kids.
Attorney General Greg Abbott's office told Farren last month that he could use the law to prosecute Jack Buckner, but Farren believed it would be unethical to file a case he believed he couldn't win because of the parental protection.
He said he considered parsing the indecency statute to try to show that Jack Buckner might have not "accompanied" his daughters the entire time they were watching the pornography — as the law prescribes.
Had the father left the room his daughters were in while watching the porn — to use the bathroom or go to the kitchen — Farren thought the parental protection could be sidestepped.
"I would love to file a charge under that theory because it would be a way to test the law in front of an appellate court — that he didn't actually accompany them the entire time," he said. "I feel like the facts and evidence in this case better supports a charge under the child endangerment statute."
Could face two years in jail
If convicted, Buckner faces up to two years in state jail and a $10,000 fine on each count.
Prosecuting the case using the indecency statute likely would have made the charge a Class A misdemeanor, Farren said. The maximum for each count would have been a year in county jail and a $4,000 fine.
Crystal Buckner is trying to get the indecency law changed. She has the backing of state Sen. Bob Deuell, a Republican from Greenville, who has said he's planning to push for a change in the law in the 2011 legislative session.
Crystal Buckner won temporary custody of the girls in September. Their visits with their father are now supervised.