A 69-year-old millionaire, Burton Gersh, has been charged with producing child pornography after he photographed two teens performing sexual acts in his New Jersey mansion. Gersh is accused of producing, along with a 73-year-old photographer friend, hundreds of sexually explicit photos of two teen girls. The photos were taken in 2010 when the girls were aged 16 and 17. However, Gersh is claiming he thought the girls were older and that they “duped” him into believing they were of consenting age.
The Daily Mail reports that Gersh’s lawyer is asking the federal judge to allow a “mistake-of-age defense.” The defense would assert that Gersh did not know the girls were underage, and therefore did not know he was producing child pornography. The millionaire says that the girls appeared older and were sexually active. In fact, he says the girls were employed at a local strip club and were prostitutes.
In building the “mistake-of-age” defense, the lawyer would like to provide details of the girls’ sexual past. However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Morgan is saying the age perceived of the girls by Gersh is irrelevant and that their sexual past should not be brought into the trial as it would only be used to “cast aspersions on the character of the victims.”
“Knowledge that the victim was under the age of 18 is not an element of the crime.”
Gersh’s attorney says that in addition to duping his client into believing they were 18, the girls also were able to dupe a “legitimate business,” a strip club, into believing they were of age.
“The alleged victims appeared to be over the age of 18 and both were strippers in a club in Philadelphia, presumably fooling a legitimate business about their age.”
USA Today reports that Gersh is adamant that he did not know the girls’ ages due to misrepresentations made by the girls at the time of the photographs. His attorney says he “may not have reasonably been able to ascertain the alleged victims’ ages because of their misrepresentations, physical appearance, and stated occupation [strippers].” Gersh also accused the girls of working as prostitutes.
Charges filed against Gersh indicate that he invited the girls to his New Jersey mansion to take the explicit photographs. The girls were photographed nude performing sexual acts on one another and on Gersh. The sexual scenes were photographed by Gersh’s 73-year-old friend, Les Sidweber.
Do you think millionaire Burton Gersh should be able to use the “mistake-of-age” defense in this case? Or do you agree with the Assistant U.S. Attorney that knowledge of the victims’ ages is irrelevant to the crime? Should men be charged for child pornography or statutory rape if a teen tries to pass herself off as an adult? Let us know in the comments.
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