Feedback
Politics

Texas Rep. Joe Barton may be a victim of revenge porn

Texas Rep. Joe Barton believes he might be the victim of revenge porn after a nude selfie and sexually-charged text message of his appeared on an anonymous Twitter feed.

The Republican congressman said in a statement that a former paramour had threatened “to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation” for his having broken off the affair. Barton said Wednesday that the U.S. Capitol Police are investigating.

The mission of the U.S. Capitol Police includes the protection of members of Congress, and the assessment of threats against them. Capitol Police officers are empowered by federal law to make arrests within the United States Capitol Buildings and grounds for violations of federal or state law. USCP also have some authority to make arrests outside the Capitol grounds and within the District of Columbia for certain crimes. They will also collaborate with local law enforcement in conducting investigations.

Texas congressman says police investigating after nude photo surfaces 1:43

While threats to members of Congress fall within the jurisdiction of Capitol Police, this is likely a matter for local law enforcement. There is no federal law explicitly addressing revenge porn, but several states have enacted legislation attempting to criminalize it. The location where the unidentified Twitter user published the image of Barton is likely the state with jurisdiction over any crime.

If Texas has jurisdiction, one section of the Relationship Privacy Act, that state’s revenge porn statute, criminalizes intentionally disclosing images of a victim’s intimate parts without consent, where the image also reveals the identity of the victim too. The photo was published this week on an anonymous Twitter account.

Even if she did not tweet out the nude image, the woman might be liable under another section of Texas’s revenge porn law. Barton, 68, has said that when he ended the consensual relationship with the woman, she threatened to retaliate by publicly sharing his private photographs and intimate correspondence.

In Texas, it’s also a crime to intentionally threaten to disclose images of a victim’s intimate parts in order to obtain some benefit. Even if she didn’t actually tweet the image, if she threatened to so and additionally sought to extract something of value from Barton, that could potentially violate the Relationship Privacy Act. In either situation, the fact that Barton created the image himself and voluntarily sent it to the woman is not a defense under the law.

Danny Cevallos is an MSNBC legal analyst.