Last week, Ryne Thomas Thackston, a former assistant football coach at North Cobb High School, was arrested and charged with one count of sexual exploitation of children.
He is accused of exchanging sexually explicit photos via text message with a 17 year-old girl. According to the warrant, Thackston, 28, sent inappropriate photos of himself and received numerous sexually explicit images and videos from the 17 year-old on his cell phone. The exchange allegedly occurred on March 5th. It is unclear whether the girl was ever a student of Thackston’s.
According to school officials, Thackston’s official capacity at the school was as a substitute teacher and a community coach, not a full-time employee. He had coached the wide receivers at North Cobb, his alma mater, since 2008. An official also reported that Thackston’s last day of employment at North Cobb was March 7th. Thackston was booked at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center and posted a $20,000 bond early the next morning.
Thackson’s arrest brings to light an obvious inconsistency in Georgia’s sex offense laws that needs to be addressed. The girl who he allegedly sent these pictures to was 17 years old. Under Georgia law, she was over the age of consent (which is 16). That means that if an adult, like Thackson, had engaged in actual sexual conduct with her, no crime would have been committed. However, Georgia’s sexual exploitation laws make it illegal for someone to transmit a sexually explicit picture to a child under the age of 18. These laws are blatantly inconsistent as they permit the individuals to have sexual relations but prohibit the less serious conduct of sending pictures to each other.
This inconsistency in Georgia’s sex offense statutes is manifestly unfair in that now Thackston is charged with a serious felony offense for which he could go to prison. If convicted, he would also be subject to sex offender registration. As a Georgia criminal defense attorney who specializes in sex offense cases, I am quite troubled by the fact that Georgia’s legislature has yet to correct this problem. I understand that it is not politically popular for legislators to deal with issues such as this, but the law as it stands now is not only unfair but likely unconstitutional. If the law permits an individual to have a sexual relationship with someone, then the first amendment should permit the two to communicate in any way they desire.
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