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High School Student Booked on Dozens of Charges in Photo Dare

Did you hear the story about the high school student who could face 70 criminal charges because of a photo dare he took while posing with the football team?

Sometimes, a punishment — or at least a potential punishment — doesn’t fit the crime.

Such seems to be the case in a Mesa, Arizona high school, where a 19-year-old student was booked on a total of 70 charges because of a prank. The charges stem from a photo dare in which the student was challenged to expose himself during a varsity football team photo.

CBS 5 News in Mesa reported, “Police said Osborn knowingly exposed the top of his penis through the top of the waistband of his football uniform pants during the photo session.

The photo was used in football programs and 3,400 copies of the school yearbook before someone noticed…and that’s when the student was arrested.

He was booked on 70 charges.

Yes. Seventy.

They came up with that number because there were 69 students and faculty members present at the time the photo was taken, despite the fact that any of the 69 who actually did see anything chose to remain silent as the picture was made.

The 69 counts were for indecent exposure, which is a misdemeanor; the 70th charge was for “furnishing harmful items to minors,” and is a class 4 felony.

I would have thought a charge along the lines of “criminal mischief” would have sufficed.

Initially, authorities said any of the people who were present at the time the photo was taken and who happened to be 18 or older could opt to drop one of the misdemeanor charges filed on their behalf if they did not wish to prosecute, so that whopping number of 69 charges could have dropped.

A petition popped up — because we can’t do anything these days without a petition — demanding that all charges be dropped.

Fortunately for this kid, who told police he was “disgusted” by his actions, the county prosecutor has decided against prosecuting him on the charges he was booked for. The bad news is the city prosecutor could still decide to go after him.

I think these charges were definitely overkill.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be consequences, but the consequences, ideally, should at least fit the crime. For example, there might have been 69 people in attendance at the time of the photo, but those standing behind him couldn’t have seen anything, and those standing in front of him, other than those in the immediate area, shouldn’t have been able to see anything, either.

The petition at change.org says the student is being made a scapegoat:

He didn’t put the picture in the yearbook, he didn’t create the page, he wasn’t the editor that approved it, or the teacher responsible for publishing it and distributing it to students. The teacher responsible for the yearbook should be fired. Red Mountain High School is using him as a scapegoat instead of taking any responsibility! Hunter needs to be held accountable for his actions but that doesn’t mean ruining his life!

I don’t think anyone should be fired. The “spectacle” was so unnoticeable that it got past the photographer who took the picture, too. And whoever processed and finished the photo. And whoever blew it up to the size needed for publication.

The fact that it got that far makes it perfectly understandable the yearbook staff wouldn’t have necessarily noticed, since that’s the kind of detail they’d be looking for to begin with.

Some have argued the two students in front of him in the photo, who appeared to stand apart to make sure the “exposed” area would be visible, must have known what was going to happen and they should be charged.

Others have said the person who made the dare, thereby starting the situation to begin with, should face the music, too.

Ultimately, the student chose to take the dare, no matter who issued it, and whether he had assistance from those who might have blocked the view of him, he still put himself out there. I’m not sure going after other students is the right thing to do, either.

Some have suggested the police never should have been involved; that may or may not have been up to the school; an angry parent could have contacted police even if the school had intended to set a punishment and deal with it their way.

But the real question at hand is to put yourself in the place of the parents of this kid, who surely expected he’d know better than to do such a thing. If it was your son, would you agree a prank that, granted, shouldn’t have happened to begin with, but that produced an image so barely noticeable that no one noticed until after it was published and distributed really be worth a felony?

I don’t think so. Do you?

What punishment do you think is appropriate for the prank, and who do you think should and shouldn’t be punished?

1 Comment

  1. Wait a minute. Even you wrote at the close of the article that this kid should have “known better”. Why? Not for nothing, but no one has ever accused teenagers of knowing anything better. It has been more common knowledge for the last five or so years that the human brain’s frontal lobe, where decision-making and balance of that decision-making reside, does NOT fully mature until age 25, if not even older. And so we really cannot say anything to this effect of his knowing better.
    I’m not saying he should get out of this situation completely unscathed, mind you. But I am saying it isn’t right to have an expectation that he would truly realise just how egregious it was to do what he did.
    From the impression I had whilst reading your post, it seems that he only exposed the tip of his penis in the photo, not had the whole of it flapping about in a very obvious manner. This coupled with the age of the few others’ involved makes me think it was clearly not all that obvious what was going on. Certainly it made it through a number of processes before some sharp-eyed person realised that something was amiss in the photograph…
    The others whom were in the know really should not be more than spoken to regarding the inappropriateness of their inactions. The kid who did it is the party responsible; he took on the role of doing this “prank” which means he has taken the thought to action. As the perpetrator, I should think he should have to go through the following:
    1. He needs to stand up in font of those school officials, parents, coach, etc., and make a public and heartfelt apology.
    2. Be suspended for a period of three weeks, during which time he will:
    3. Put in no less than 35 hours each week of community service, possibly in teaching other kids about the [utter lack of] wisdom of pulling a stunt like this.
    If that isn’t the deserving punishment that truly fits the crime, I don’t know what is. The hardest part will be the first one. There should not be any firings, no charges – he isn’t a sexual predator, just not very smart about deciding on this action; he isn’t a criminal. He also exposed himself *once*, not 69 times! That’s overkill.
    There is no effective way to reign in kids from making a dare. There is a way to get them to see the errors made in taking what had been a very poor idea to consider the consequences, to learn from doing something wrong. But if anyone can say he or she did *not* do truly stupid or thoughtless things while under age 25 or so, well, then…they are more than likely lying!

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.