Snapchat Being Used As Platform for Crime: Ohio Assailants Film Their Sexual Assault

Published on November 19, 2019

Social media is no longer simply a series of platforms that allow for content to be curated and distributed—it’s a digital weapon where the content acts as its ammunition. Over the years, we’ve seen instances where social media networks have been a platform for criminals to post evidence of their activities, particularly murder and sexual assault.

One of the most infamous and well-known cases of this was the 2017 Easter killing, where Ohio gunman, Steve Stephens, broadcasted live on Facebook and YouTube, his shooting and brutal murder of Robert Godwin III.

Last year, I spoke with CBS WHIO7 about a local Centerville case, which came up in reference to this upcoming case, where Scott Reed, a then 24-year-old Cincinnati man, was accused of sending nude photos of himself through Snapchat to two underage girls, ages 12 and 13.

Unfortunately, we return to Ohio, this time—Lebanon, where this time, the platform of choice involved Snapchat. On Monday, three Warren County men were indicted on charges stemming from a sexual assault of an unconscious 17-year-old girl that led to the men publishing parts of their assault on her to Snapchat back on April 6 of this year at the Mason Inn.

The three men—Alexander S. Wood (18) and Quentin A. Smith (18), according to the Clerk of Courts website, were charged with rape, sexual battery, three counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor or impaired person and illegal use of a minor or impaired person in nudity-oriented material or performance.

The third assailant, Dominic J. Cboins (18), was charged with rape and sexual battery.

And the law is becoming a bit more clear on how to extend its provisions to instances of “cyber-crime.”

Ohio’s “rape” law is codified under Ohio Revised Code 2907.02, where Wood, Smith, and Cboins were charged under (A)(1)(c):

No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another who is not the spouse of the offender or who is the spouse of the offender but is living separate and apart from the offender, when…the other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age, and the offender knows or has reasonable cause to believe that the other person’s ability to resist or consent is substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition or because of advanced age.”

Under Ohio law, “sexual battery” is codified under Ohio Revised Code 2907.03, where Wood and Smith were charged under (A)(2):

No person shall engage in sexual conduct with another, not the spouse of the offender, when…the offender knows that the other person’s ability to appraise the nature of or control the other person’s own conduct is substantially impaired.

Under Ohio law, “pandering sexually oriented matter involving minor” is codified under Ohio Revised Code 2907.322, where Wood and Smith were charged with respect to their use of Snapchat under (A)(1):

No person, with knowledge of the character of the material or performance involved, shall…Create, record, photograph, film, develop, reproduce, or publish any material that shows a minor or impaired person participating or engaging in sexual activity, masturbation, or bestiality.”

All three men were released from jail, pending arraignment on December 6 in Warren County Common Pleas Court.

For more information on the case, you can search the Warren County Court of Common Pleas Clerk of Courts website and enter the following cases:

  • 19-CR-036181
  • 19-CR-036194
  • 19-CR-036195

These instances are rare by which police are able to recover photos and/or videos as evidence of assault through apps like these. In last year’s case involving Reed, Snap Inc.’s servers were able to, a certain extent, provide documentation of that activity.

This is another reason encryption and messaging is that much more essential to discuss as between lawmakers and these tech giants.

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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