Our reaction after the initial court decision last month was, “What message did the ruling send?”
That takeaway was in response to the dismissal of criminal charges against a former Kenosha teacher alleged to have shown a partially nude photograph of a man she was dating to a student.
The female student, 14, had told investigators that she was embarrassed and disgusted when the teacher, Meiranda Patterson, showed her the picture at LakeView Technology Academy.
Patterson, who is no longer a teacher in the Kenosha Unified School District, was charged in November with exposing a child to harmful material, a felony.
At issue was a photograph of “a naked male showing his shoulders down to the top of his thighs including his pubic area,” according to the criminal complaint.
The initial ruling by Judge Bruce Schroeder was that the state had not met the burden of showing that the photo was harmful material.
“The picture was not in evidence,” the judge said. “Based on the description of it, I couldn’t find that that was harmful material.”
That ruling was surprising at the time, and last week it was overturned as the judge reinstated the charges, setting up a trial next month.
The reason: The judge realized the court commissioner had received a copy of the photograph when Patterson was bound over for trial, and that photograph was in color, not in black and white as considered previously.
“I have to say, (the color photograph) looks very different to me than the black-and-white,” Schroeder said.
The judge said the standard under the charge was not whether the photograph was obscene, but whether it was acceptable material to show children.
“It’s for the jury to decide,” he said.
Defense attorney Terry Rose, who last month said the photograph showed less nudity than the famous statue of David by Michelangelo, said the initial ruling was correct.
He said the photograph was no more explicit than photographs commonly shown in “everyday popular culture.”
While we don’t know why the color photograph wasn’t a part of last month’s hearing, we’re pleased that a Kenosha County jury will decide this.
Patterson is scheduled to go to trial March 16. If convicted, she could face up to 18 months in prison and two years of extended supervision.
The jury will determine the message that’s sent.