“There is a lot of damage emotionally here, to the victims, to the parents, to the families. It’s going to take a lot of healing. It’s a sad, sad deal, and we have a lot of victims in this case,” said Fairbury Chief of Police Chad Sprunk, discussing a sexting case at Fairbury Jr./Sr. High School that has gone viral. Currently, there are between 10 and 20 people involved in the case, but Sprunk believes there could be even more people in this case that could cross into other counties.
On Sept. 6, the Fairbury Police Department was contacted about the sexting case by the high school. Law enforcement has been investigating this since, trying to put a stop to the damage. He gave an overview of the case so far.
“We were contacted by the high school about some incidents where sexual acts were performed and recorded at a residence and were being distributed throughout the student body. We began the investigation and found out that it happened multiple times in multiple areas of the county. With the distributing of the videos, cell phones were seized, and search warrants will be obtained for those cell phones, and will be sent to the Nebraska State Patrol for analysis. This is an on-going investigation—it’s a very high-priority investigation,” said Sprunk.
The Fairbury Police Department is working with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Nebraska State Patrol to determine who is involved. Sprunk stated that the people involved range in age from 14 to 18. He explained that the people involved in the case could be arrested and may face felony charges.
“Manufacturing and distributing child pornography are felonies,” Sprunk said. “One is a class 3 felony, the other is a class 3A felony, which could end up with a prison sentence. It’s very, very serious. If you add other elements to it, there are some additional crimes being committed. We have several felonies that have been committed. We have manufacturing child pornography, distributing child pornography, child abuse, which, depending on the level of it, could also be a felony, contributing to the delinquency of minors and alcohol offenses. There’s a whole string of them. People may think that this isn’t a big deal, but step back and think if this was your child. Nobody wants this to happen—it needs to stop.”
Sprunk clarified that even forwarding the videos or images to another person can be considered as distributing child pornography, which is why he encourages people who have received any files related to the incident to contact law enforcement.
“If you receive the pornographic material, and you don’t delete it, you just send it on, now you’ve just committed a crime,” said Sprunk. “Before you delete it, you need to talk to an adult, because that is evidence. If you receive it on your phone, your phone is evidence and your phone can and will be seized. Even if it’s deleted from your phone, the State Patrol has equipment that can retrieve all deleted items. If you mess with anything that’s on the phone after it’s been seized, that’s tampering with evidence. It just compounds the issue. It’s better just to be forward. The crime has been committed, you deal with it and you move on.”
Since this case has come to light, Sprunk stated that there have been some bullying incidents at the high school. He emphasized that bullying will not be tolerated, and that the school is already taking action to suspend people because of the case.
Parents are encouraged to talk with their children about sexting and the seriousness of the issue. Sprunk believes that if people realize the severity of the case, they will be able to put an end to it.
“Talk to your kids about how wrong sexting is,” Sprunk said. “It is a major deal. If you hear something or see something, you need to contact the law enforcement in your jurisdiction. We have multiple jurisdictions involved, and it sounds like we may even be going into different counties that are involved. If you’re involved in the case, don’t be talking about it, because if you approach somebody else who’s involved in it, you’re tampering with a witness, which compounds the issue.
“Hopefully we can put a stop to this, because it cannot continue,” Sprunk continued. “It’s disrupting school, kids aren’t able to focus on school because of everything that’s going around. It’s just a nasty circle. Not only do we have the criminal side, now we have to deal with the emotional side. Not only are you hurting the victims, now you’re hurting their families.”