Love in the Digital Age: a Florida Woman Faces Felony Charges After Threatening to Disseminate Her Girlfriend’s Nude Images

For almost as long as there has been a World Wide Web (and later, smart devices,) there have been people posting adult and/or sexually explicit content online. When someone publishes their own images or publishes images of someone else with proper permission, that’s one thing; when they disseminate others’ images without authorization, it’s quite another. Today, these acts are often taken very seriously by authorities. Engaging in such publication can carry serious consequences, including a felony conviction and jail time. Obviously, a felony conviction can be a life-altering event, which is why anyone facing such charges should waste no time retaining a knowledgeable Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer.

According to a recent arrest affidavit, an extortion case from Pinellas County involved those kinds of images. The genesis of the arrest was a relationship that was both business and personal… and had gone very wrong.

The Smoking Gun reported that E.L., a St. Petersburg woman, allegedly had lent her new girlfriend $45. Apparently feeling the girlfriend was untimely in paying back the debt, the frustrated lender decided to offer a little extra motivation.

Specifically, E.L. allegedly logged onto the girlfriend’s OnlyFans page and downloaded several of the girlfriend’s nude images without permission. (OnlyFans, for the uninitiated, is an online content platform famous for hosting many content creators’ pornographic images and videos.)

Next, according to the affidavit, she texted one of the images to a third party, sent proof of the text’s delivery to the girlfriend, and declared “Send me the 45 you owe me by the end of today or I will have to invoice you or send your nudes everywhere.” Potential recipients E.L. listed allegedly included the girlfriend’s mother and grandmother.

The state charged E.L. with extortion, which is a second-degree felony and punishable by as much as 15 years behind bars.

What’s ‘Maliciously’ Mean? It Depends on Where You Are. 

There are defenses an accused person can deploy in their extortion case. One of those is the “idle threats” defense, which entails establishing that the threat was merely an idle one and was never intended to get back to the alleged target. Alternately, a defendant can also argue that they lacked the required intent that the extortion statute demands. (The extortion statute specifically requires that the defendant made the threats maliciously.)

What “maliciously” means depends on where you’re charged. Here in Pinellas County (as well as the rest of the counties within the Second Appellate District,) “maliciously” means “intentionally and without any unlawful justification.” In nearby Hernando County, along with the rest of the Fifth Appellate District, the standard is friendlier to the defendant, requiring the state to prove that the accused acted with “ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent.”

Under either of those standards, E.L. might face challenges, judging by the arrest affidavit. Threatening to send someone’s explicit images to their mother or grandmother might lead a reasonable jury to conclude that E.L. not only acted intentionally but also harbored ill will or spite.

Additionally, based on the affidavit, E.L. appeared to create a lot of evidence that the threats were the opposite of idle. She allegedly downloaded the images, texted one of them, created a record of that text and its delivery to the third-party recipient, and then sent that proof to the alleged victim alongside the threat to send the pictures to “everyone” if she did not receive same-day payment.

Clearly, we don’t have the whole story… we only have what the police put in the arrest affidavit. The complete set of facts may reveal important elements that could diminish the state’s case or may bolster one or more elements of the defense. Many times, a skilled defense attorney can discover or otherwise develop and present evidence that casts a case in a much different light than what an arrest affidavit depicts.

Whether or not it involves misappropriated nude selfies, an extortion charge is a potentially life-changing matter and one well worth treating with the utmost seriousness. That includes calling the skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. We’ve handled countless felony cases and we have the knowledge and experience to help you. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.

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