Court rules that 32-year-old man's sex with 17-year-old was legal, but pictures of it were not


PUBLISHED: 21:04 EST, 22 June 2012 UPDATED: 06:51 EST, 23 June 2012


  • Age of sexual consent in Illinois is 17
  • But Marshall Hollins convicted of making child porn for photographing sexual encounters


Although a man who was 32 wasn’t breaking the law by having sex with a 17-year-old girl in 2008, he was by photographing the act, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Marshall Hollins was convicted in Stephenson County of making child pornography and sentenced to 8 years in prison. 

He admitted he had sex with the girl when she was 17, which is the age of sexual consent in Illinois.


Guilty: Marshall Hollins, 35, is serving an 8-year prison sentence for child pornography, for photographing himself having sex with his 17-year-old girlfriend in 2009

In a 5-2 ruling, the high court said that although the law allows 17-year-olds to consent to sex, they are still minors, making photos or video of such sex child porn. 

The consequences of sexual activity are apparent to teens, but the consequences of being in pornography aren’t, the court found.

‘These concerns are exacerbated in the modern digital age, where once a picture or video is uploaded to the Internet, it can never be completely erased or eradicated,’ Justice Rita Garman wrote for the majority. 


‘It will always be out there, hanging over the head of the person depicted performing the sexual act.’

The majority also noted that Congress in 1984 changed the definition of a minor in child pornography to anyone under 18 because it found ‘the previous ceiling of 16 had hampered enforcement of child pornography laws since, with the 16-year-old ceiling, there was sometimes confusion about whether a subject was a minor since children enter puberty at different ages.’

Ruling: The jury ruled that since the 17-year-old was still a minor at the time, the photos were pornographic

Ruling: The jury ruled that since the 17-year-old was still a minor at the time, the photos were pornographic (stock photo)

The two dissenting justices said that because the photos don’t show an illegal act, they shouldn’t be illegal.

‘There was nothing unlawful about the production of the photographs taken by defendant in this case because the sexual conduct between defendant and (the girl) was entirely legal,’ wrote Justice Anne Burke, who was joined by Justice Charles Freeman.

‘The photographs are therefore not child pornography as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court for purposes of the First Amendment.’

Attorney Kathleen Hamill of the Office of the State Appellate Defender represented Hollins. She said the office hasn’t decided whether to challenge the ruling.

The Illinois Legislature changed the age of consent for pornography from 16 to 18 in 1985, she said. ‘This apparently is the first case that has arisen challenging that,’ Hamill said.–pictures-not.html

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