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Photo of topless woman leads to 'revenge porn' charges

He's accused of using the private image as a decal on his motorcycle.

A man accused of using a photo of a topless woman he knew as a motorcycle decal, then posted about it Facebook, is now facing charges under the state's "revenge porn" laws.

Timothy Brandt, of Minnesota Lake, was charged this week with "nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images" – the legal language for the statute that makes nonconsensual pornography a crime. 

According to the charges, the 39-year-old had the decal of the underwear-clad woman on his motorcycle's gas tank. He wrote "Beautiful day to show off the old lady, lol" as the caption on a Facebook post about it.

The woman was alerted to the photo and reached out to authorities. She said it was taken while she was in a relationship with Brandt, and that it was never supposed to be shared with people.

Brandt is facing two counts of "nonconsensual dissemination." That's because the woman is identifiable, the photo was taken at a time where there was a reasonable expectation of privacy, and Brandt posted it as a way to harass the woman, according to the charges.

Both are felonies, and would be up to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine if he's convicted.

He's also been charged with violating an order of protection. The Faribault County Attorney's Office told GoMN he's due in court July 31.

The revenge porn law is still new here

Just one year ago, Minnesota didn't have a law specifically criminalizing the posting of nude or sexual images online without that person's consent.

In spring of 2016, state lawmakers passed a bill making revenge porn, as it's often referred to, illegal. It was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton and went into effect on Aug. 1, 2016.

The Pioneer Press reported in February about the first revenge porn case in Ramsey County, and noted there had been a couple in Hennepin and one in Dakota up to that point.

More about nonconsensual pornography

Minnesota is now one of 38 states with revenge porn laws in the books, the group Cyber Civil Rights Initiative says – that's up from 23 states at the start of 2016. (The group also prefers the term "nonconsensual pornography" to "revenge porn," since the motive isn't always revenge.)

A recent study by the initiative found 12.8 percent of people said someone had threatened to share sexually explicit images of them. And that 8 percent said someone had indeed spread photos or video without their consent.

Women were more likely than men to be victims, though it does happen to both sexes.

The group's website also has a guide for how to request nonconsensual pornography be removed from different websites.

While not in all cases, the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative says revenge porn is often a form of domestic violence. For example, an abuser will threaten to leak intimate photos if the victim leaves or calls the police.

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