Georgia Supreme Court to Hear Appeal from Former Oconee County Teacher’s Aide

By Allison Gowens

UPDATE: Jane Hansen, the Public Information Officer for the Supreme Court of Georgia, says a decision for Wetzel should be made before the end of the year.

A former teacher’s aide at Oconee High School is appealing his conviction for electronically sending nude pictures of his genitals to a 15-year-old girl back in 2011.

Jeremy Michael Wetzel, who is represented by his father Michael Wetzel, is appealing his conviction on several grounds, including that the statute under which his son was convicted was too vague. Wetzel argues the statute is unconstitutional “if men of common intelligence must guess at the meaning of a statue.”

The statue in question provides that it is illegal to use the Internet, computers, or other electronic devices to entice a child to commit illegal acts defined under four other statutes. These acts include sodomy, child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, and public indecency. Furthermore, the statute makes it illegal to contact a child via chatrooms, email, or online messaging services with matter containing explicit verbal descriptions of nudity or sexual conduct.

Wetzel further argues that the original indictment is void because it failed to specify for which offense under the Computer Electronic Pronography and Child Exploitation Act of 2007 that his son was charged.

The State argues that the statute is not unconstitutionally vague, as it sufficiently notifies individuals not to engage in conduct that is by its nature an unlawful sexual offense against a child. The District Attorney also rejects Wentzel’s argument that the original indictment was invalid, stating “To engage in conduct that by its nature is an unlawful sexual offense against a child” is a separate method of committing child pornography under the statute.

Jeremy Michael Wetzel, who was 24 at the time of the incident, was working as a paraprofessional at Oconee High School when he began texting a 15-year-old student. He attempted to send her nude photos over the phone, but sent two emails containing pictures of his genitals to her from his own email address after running into difficulty with the phones. The student later electronically sent two photos of herself topless after Wetzel asked her via text message for something in return.

On May 31, 2013, Wetzel was convicted of violating the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 (Georgia Code § 16-12-100.2 (d)) for using a cell phone to solicit a child under 16 to send and receive nude photos and for electronically furnishing obscene material to a minor. He received an eight-year sentence. He was later acquitted of child molestation derived from electronically sending sexual images.

Wetzel appealed to the Georgia Court of Appeals, which upheld the trial court’s verdicts. The opinion was later rescinded and the case was transferred to the state Supreme Court after determining that Wetzel had raised constitutional issues.

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, Jeremy Wetzel has been out on parole from Valdosta State Prison since Nov. 4, 2014.

 

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