Unprecedented Criminal Case on New Revenge Porn Law

On Friday, April 3rd, 28 year old San Diego man Kevin Bollaert was convicted in the San Diego Superior Court and sentenced to 18 years for 27 counts of identity theft and extortion via California’s newly enacted revenge porn law.  Additionally, he was ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.  Although Bollaert is not the first to be convicted under California’s new law, his steep sentence is unprecedented.   Specifically, Bollaert ran a revenge porn website (called Yougotposted) which allowed vengeful ex-husbands and boyfriends to post nude photos of their ex-girlfriends and link them to the women’s personal social media accounts.  Bollaert, a Web developer, posted the pictures and then charged women from $300 to $350 to have the pictures removed.  Prosecutors alleged that over 10,000 photos from California and other states were posted on Bollaert’s website between Dec. 2, 2012, and Sept. 17, 2013.

Bollaert faced a maximum of 20 years.  In explaining his punishment, the judge noted that he stacked the sentencing terms based on the multiple victims.  The hearing took all day, and eight women testified on how they were damaged by Bollaert’s actions.  This was the first case of its type in the country, and California was the first state to prosecute someone for posting humiliating pictures online.  Above all else, this case is more about online harassment, threats, and extortion.

New Legislation

In October 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed S.B. 255, which took effect immediately upon signing.  The revenge porn law makes it a misdemeanor to post identifiable nude pictures of someone else online without permission with the intent to cause emotional distress or humiliation.  Those convicted face up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Prior to this law, victims only had civil litigation to fall back on (they had to sue their assailants), which is expensive and time-consuming.  Critics of the bill, such as the ACLU, claimed that it would restrict free speech rights, a concern the states of Florida and Missouri also cited in their striking down of similar proposed laws.  Illinois, on the other hand, passed its own revenge porn statute in January of 2015.

Legal Implications

Under the California law, a person may only be charged if they published the photos that they themselves had taken and posted of the victim.  Because 80% of photos published in revenge porn cases were self-taken shots, the law only theoretically protects a minority of victims.  Additionally, this provision makes the law difficult to enforce, since it is nearly impossible to decipher who took what photo.

(note: A more comprehensive revenge porn bill was introduced to the California legislature in Feb. 2014, A.B. No. 2643)

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases harassment, sexual offenses, and identity theft.  We have successfully represented many defendants, including those with criminal charges for sexual harassment, harassment, and identity theft.  If you have been charged with a crime, contact attorney David Boertjie today.