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Forest Park youth in trouble over 'sexting'

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Malcom Radcliff recognizes that he made a mistake by sending a nude picture of himself to a 16-year-old, female classmate via his cell phone last month, according to a family member.

Radcliff, 17, a sophomore at Forest Park High School, was arrested Monday, and is facing a misdemeanor charge of distributing obscene materials, an incident he told Forest Park police was just "a joke," according to the warrant for the youth's arrest.

The application for the arrest warrant states that the picture was also sent to several other students, and was shown to teachers and Forest Park High's school resource officer. Radcliff was released from the Clayton County Jail on Wednesday, on $2,000 bond, according to his older brother, and legal guardian, James Tukes, Sr.

"He is remorseful for what he's done," Tukes said. "He knows what he did was wrong, and that he didn't think clearly before he did what he did."

Radcliff is scheduled to appear in Clayton County Magistrate Court on April 12, for a preliminary hearing, according to online court records. What happened with Radcliff is an example of what teenagers call "sexting," and it is a growing concern in Clayton County, according to the county's solicitor general, Tasha Mosley.

"'Sexting' is a whole new term that has only been around for a year, or so," Mosley said. "It is the sending of pornographic material through a cell phone. It can be images of someone exposing his, or herself, or of two people engaged in sexual acts. It can also be language ... where someone sends a text message to another person, saying 'Hey, I wanna do this to you, or I wanna do that with you.'"

Mosley said Radcliff could be facing a sentence of up to a $1,000 fine, and 12 months of either probation, or jail time. She said there is a possibility this can be kept off his record, if he meets the criteria for the court system's Pre-Trial Intervention Program, where people with no prior criminal history, and have not committed a violent crime, can undergo a counseling program for a fee of $300.

Mosley said she is not aware of any previous criminal history for Radcliff. If he qualifies for the program, he would have to meet with the counselor as often as the counselor designates. If he cannot successfully complete the program, his case will come back to Mosley's office for prosecution, she said.

According to Clayton County Magistrate Judge Richard Brown's bond order for Radcliff, not only was bond set at $2,000, for the youth, but he is also "ordered not to disseminate any photographic images over any communication devices." Tukes said his brother's cell phone is being held as evidence by the Forest Park Police Department.

Additionally, Tukes said school officials suspended his brother for three days, because of the incident, but the punishment was served earlier this week. Mosley said, however, Radcliff could feel the negative impact of this incident for a much longer period of time.

"This image could be out there on the Internet for years to come, and it could hurt him for awhile," she said. "Employers now go on Facebook, and MySpace, and they 'Google' anyone they are thinking about hiring to see what's out there about this person. They are going to find this image, and it could potentially make it hard for this young man to get a job."

The female student, who received the photo, may also find herself in a bit of trouble because of what she is alleged to have done with Radcliff's photo. "After receiving this photo on her cell phone, this female forwarded it to other students at the school," said Forest Park Police Department spokesman, Maj. Chris Matson, in a written statement.

Matson later said, by phone, that investigators were still looking into the female student's actions, and no decision has yet been made about whether she will face charges.

Tukes said he is not sure how long his brother has known the female student. "It could not have been longer than a year and a half, though, because that is when he and his mother moved to Forest Park to live with me," the older brother said. Tukes added that the situation has been upsetting to their mother, who is recovering from a stroke she suffered a year and a half ago.

The "sexting" issue has become commonplace enough that Mosley's office will be working on a way to educate students about its dangers. The solicitor general said her office had already heard murmurs about it being commonplace at Mundy's Mill and Mt. Zion high schools, before Radcliff's case came to light.

"It started off with two schools, and we never saw any cases happen at those schools, but we were hearing from students that it was going on," Mosley said. "Then, we had this case happen at Forest Park, so now we had three schools, and we decided, if it happens at three schools, it's probably happening at all of them."

The solicitor general said she and investigators from her office are working with school system officials to come up with a way to educate students at the county middle and high schools about why they should not engage in 'sexting.' "We want them to understand that, even though they are children, they can still be charged with a crime for this," she said.