UPDATE 2: John Stelmack
APPEALS COURT FREES EX-PRINCIPLE
excerpts of an article by Suzie Schottelkotte – The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)
After 18 months in prison for a child pornography conviction, Scott Lake Elementary School’s former principal, John Stelmack, is about to be a free man.
A three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal in Lakeland ruled Friday that photographs he had were not child pornography because the nude bodies shown were those of an adult.
Photos of the faces of children, one of them a Scott Lake student, had been placed on those bodies, but none of the photos actually showed children nude.
“Unseemly as the images in this case may be, their possession is not (outlawed in Florida) because the only sexual conduct in the images is that of an adult,” Judge Morris Silberman wrote in the opinion. Judges Charles A. Davis and Marva Crenshaw concurred.
Stelmack’s lawyers have failed in previous attempts to get him released from the Wakulla Correctional Institution while his appeal was pending.
Chip Thullbery, a spokesman for the State Attorney’s Office, said there are no other charges the State Attorney’s Office can file.
“Essentially, our prosecution of Mr. Stelmack has ended with this decision,” Thullbery said Friday.
Appellate judges heard arguments Oct. 13 about whether children’s faces cut from photographs and pasted onto images of adult nude bodies should be considered child pornography.
Lawrence Walters, a lawyer for Stelmack, argued such images aren’t child pornography, and his client’s conviction and five-year prison sentence should be thrown out.
Walters said the images don’t fit the legal definition of child pornography because they “do not depict a child engaged in sexual conduct.”
He said a federal law was created to address “composite or morphed images,” but no such law exists under state law.
“As uncomfortable as the images may make us feel, they simply are not reached by current Florida law,” he said.
Diana K. Bock, an assistant state attorney general, insisted the images are child pornography, and the ex-educator’s punishment is appropriate.
Bock said the purpose of creating the images was to objectify a real child and to represent sexual conduct by that child.
“Once that picture was placed on that body, it changed the nature of that picture,” she said.
The appellate court judges, however, sided with the defense and said that if the state Legislature had intended to make simulated child sexual exposure illegal, it would have had to write that into state law.
Kent Lilly, a Lakeland lawyer who represented the family of two sisters who sued the Polk County School District in the matter, could not be reached Friday for comment.
Legal representatives for the Polk County School District also could not be reached for comment.
Deputies arrested Stelmack in December 2007 after finding cut-and-paste images in his briefcase stored in a closet in his office at Scott Lake Elementary School.
Stelmack had been placed on suspension Dec. 14, 2007, while school officials investigated accusations he had inappropriately hugged fifth-grade girls.
The two sisters were considered Stelmack’s “favorites,” David Carmichael, a lawyer for the school district, has said.
Four images recovered from Stelmack’s briefcase had the face of a 12-year-old Scott Lake student. One other image had the face of an 11-year-old student from a school in New York where Stelmack previously served as principal.
The girls’ faces were superimposed over the head of a 19-year-old nude model.
The Polk County School Board agreed several months ago to pay $120,000 to a family who said Stelmack inappropriately hugged their two daughters.
According to a court order signed by Circuit Judge J. Michael McCarthy earlier this month, the two sisters, who were not identified, will split $82,500 in a college trust fund. The remainder of the settlement money will be used to pay court costs, lawyer fees and future counseling should the girls need it.
The lawsuit also claimed Stelmack was obsessed with the girls, and had been “grooming” them for “further and advanced sexual activity” as they grew older. The girls were removed from the school and placed in a different one in another city to avoid “the chaos and turmoil” at Scott Lake, the suit said.
The settlement wasn’t based on the pornographic pictures but the inappropriate contact Stelmack had with the girls, Carmichael has said.
Last year, a jury found Stelmack guilty of five counts of possessing child pornography. He was sentenced July 10, 2009, to five years in prison and 10 years of sex offender probation.
What can I say, except if this is the law, then the law is crazy.
Some of the regulars will remember the “discussion” that went on last year when John Stelmack was convicted of possession of child pornography last year. One person is particular, argued that Stelmack’s First Amendment rights were violated when this happened. Believe it or not, the gentleman who emailed me to inform us of the successful appeal argued the exact same thing. In fact, I thought he was our old friend, except this fellow is much less arrogant and is almost a pleasure to disagree with.
But, civil or not, he’s still misguided, in my opinion anyways. Stelmack’s conviction wasn’t overturned because of misconduct by the prosecution or the police. It wasn’t overturned because John Stelmack’s rights were violated in any way.
Oh no, my friends, the 2nd District Court of Appeals let this moral degenerate walk out of prison because existing Florida law didn’t specifically outlaw the type of composite photographs he was caught in possession of. They found the pictures disturbing and repugnant, but not illegal.
My question to the judges is this; What did you think John Stelmack was thinking about when he looked at those picture? Where do you think his hands were? Don’t you think that, after a while, he’d have to have the real thing. Smarter people than I have published studies of pedophiles showing that this is indeed the pattern.
Unreal. But the assault on our children’s innocence doesn’t stop with the Florida courts.
Did you know that, according to the Supreme Court Of The United States, the kind if pictures John Stelmack created by taping the heads of little girls he was attracted to onto the body of a 19-year-old sex model is considered free speech and is protected by the First Amendment? Oh yes, and the justices would like us to know that those pictures are NOT child pornography.
The thing that gets me about Stelmack’s case is that he was in a position of trust, responsible for hundreds of young children. What scares me is that he had started to take the next step into pedophilia; The parents of twin girls who’s heads were used to create Stelmack’s “paper dolls” sued him and the school board for inappropriate touching the girls. The case was settled out of court.
We here at People You’ll See In Hell are in mourning today. We are mourning the death of common sense in our courts. We thought it was just lost, and couldn’t find it’s way home, but we are now forced to admit that it lives no more.
God help us all.
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