FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — After more than a year as a couple, a 15-year-old boy and his 13-year-old girlfriend had sex on two occasions at her Kentucky home. When her parents found out, the boy was charged with a felony. The girl avoided any charges.
The case reached the Kentucky Supreme Court, and some judges said they were troubled by the “selective prosecution.” Citing Shakespeare, one justice said: “None of us would fault Romeo more than Juliet.”
But in its ruling Thursday, the court stopped short of deciding whether it was wrong to charge just the boy, or whether sex between youngsters should have been prosecuted.
Justice Mary C. Noble said the case raised “very real and important questions” about whether the prosecution of the boy, but not the girl, violated the constitutional right to equal protection under the law.
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“Certainly this case raises questions of public debate about whether male and female sexual offenders face a double standard,” she wrote. “There is also an interesting discussion about whether a child who is incapable of consenting to certain conduct can be guilty of committing that conduct on another child also incapable of consenting to the conduct.”
Those questions could not be answered in the case because the boy admitted to the charges, she said.
The case involved an eighth-grade boy and seventh-grade girl. Besides their sexual encounters, the two also sent nude photos to each other.
Her parents spotted nude pictures on the girl’s phone and discovered the youngsters had had sex.
The girl’s parents took out a warrant and the boy was charged with misdemeanor sexual misconduct and felony possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor.
He ended up pleading guilty to two misdemeanors in 2011 in Woodford County. Then, after his plea, a judge decided that the boy needed sex-offender treatment, removed him from his home and sent him to a juvenile detention center. That prompted an appeal by the boy.
In a concurring opinion Thursday, Justice Bill Cunningham said he was troubled by the “selective prosecution” in the case and referenced Shakespeare’s writings about young love.
“I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if instead of the two competing families brawling in the streets of Verona, Mr. Capulet would have beaten Mr. Montague to the courthouse to file a criminal complaint against Romeo for sexual misconduct,” Cunningham said.
“Reading Shakespeare’s enchanting tragedy, none of us would fault Romeo more than Juliet. But in this case, that appears to be exactly what has happened.”