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Court Determines 37-Year-Old Man Who Had Legal Sex With 16-Year-Old Distributed Child Pornography By Sending Her Video Of Their Sex Acts

Matthew Rouse was 37 when he filmed himself performing sex acts in motels with a 16-year-old girl, which is the legal age for consensual sex in Nebraska.

In other states the age difference between the parties determines if a sexual act with a minor is legal. There is no national statute.

But when he sent the recorded footage to the teenager’s cellphone, he committed a crime. There are national laws prohibiting the distribution of photos or videos of sex acts or nudity of minors.

Rouse, now 39, was a full-time Nebraska National Guard Master Sergeant when he drove from Lincoln to Omaha to have sex with the teenager on multiple occasions.

On March 5, 2018, Rouse pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography and was sentenced to eight years in prison on June 25.

Buzzfeed News reported he has now appealed to the US District Court in Nebraska to dismiss his conviction, arguing that his prosecution is a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fifth Amendment right to privacy.

The district court denied his motion, as the depiction of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct is not entitled to protection under the First Amendment.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the district court and upheld Rouse’s conviction on Tuesday.

The court said:

“It may not be illegal for an adult to place an unclothed child on a bed, but when the adult produces and distributes images of the child that contain a lascivious exhibition of the child’s genitals, the activity is illegal and outside the protection of the First Amendment.”

Cue the violins.

 

Rouse met the girl while he was recruiting for a CrossFit competition and began having a sexual relationship from September 2016 to January 2017.

He suggested they record their sexual acts together on their cellphones. He shared the video recordings only with her through the internet.

The girl’s mother discovered her tryst with Rouse and found the explicit recordings on her phone.

The mother contacted Rouse’s employer about the footage, and the employer then reached out to state police, according to the Justia Opinion Summary.

Though he was not in violation of Nebraska law for the sexual relationship, Rouse was arrested at his Lincoln home for possession of child pornography after Nebraska State Patrol conducted a search in February 2017.

 

At the time, Nebraska National Guard spokesman, Lt. Col. Kevin Hynes, told WOWT that Rouse was placed on leave.

“The Nebraska National Guard takes incidents of this nature extremely seriously and we are actively cooperating with local law enforcement officers in their investigation.”

“The Nebraska National Guard will take whatever actions are deemed necessary to maintain good order and discipline.”

One of the three circuit judges, Judge Clarence Arlen Beam, said in his opinion “there was, in reality, no victim of this crime” and that Rouse’s eight-year sentence could be “excessive.”

Said, Beam:

“In this unusual and likely aberrant case, a prison sentence of eight years is, to say the least, unfortunate.” 

But a 16 year-old in Maryland was also recently charged with child pornography for sharing images of herself with friends.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse is a saying for a reason. But maybe it’s time for a consistent national statute for the ages of consent.

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Written by Koh Mochizuki

Koh Mochizuki is a New York-based actor and writer. Originally hailing from Los Angeles, he received his B.A. in English literature and is fluent in Japanese. Disney parks are his passion, and endless cups of coffee are a necessity. Instagram: kohster Twitter: @kohster1