What happens when you sing a sexually explicit song and then edit video footage to make it look like you’re singing in front of classroom full of kids?
You go to jail.
Back in January, Evan Emory, a 21-year-old musician, performed a clean song in front of a classroom of children at Beechnau Elementary in Michigan. Later, he came back to the classroom when it was empty and performed a new song with sexually explicit lyrics. He then edited the footage together and posted it on YouTube in February. The video—which has been removed—contained two disclaimers saying that the children were never exposed to the explicit lyrics.
Parents and school officials were obviously upset, but it escalated way too quickly. Initially, back in February, Emory was charged with a felony for manufacturing child pornography. He faced 20—yes, 20—years in prison.
However, after a plea deal, Emory was sentenced to 60 days in prison, two years probation, 200 hours of community service, and mandatory counseling. (Emory pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of “unlawful posting of an Internet message with aggravating circumstances.”) Once he gets out of jail, he won’t be allowed within 500 feet of any children under the age of 18. The plea deal prevents Emory from having to sign up for the sexual offender registry.
It still seems like a bit much, no? Emory really didn’t do anything to the kids. He used his computer to make them a part of a dumb joke, but that was it: a dumb joke.
It’s easy to see why parents would be upset. Emory used their kids in a video with some vulgar lyrics, and he did it without getting permission. Shouldn’t that be the big problem here? It’s that he didn’t ask for permission, not that he, as one parent suggested, stole the innocence from these kids.
Emory is a 21-year-old kid who was trying to be funny, but ended up making an ass of himself. Haven’t we all been there? Sure, he deserves some kind of punishment for being an idiot and not really thinking this through, but two months in jail is two too many.