Pasco teacher arrested: Is AI-generated child porn illegal? – WFLA

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DADE CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — Third-grade science teacher Steven Houser stood virtually before a judge on Wednesday after he was charged with five counts of possessing child pornography.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said Houser worked at Beacon Christian Academy in New Port Richey.

He’s accused of having two photos and three videos featuring child pornography.

Throughout their investigation, deputies said Houser also admitted to using yearbook photos of three students to generate AI child erotica.

He was never charged for that, leaving some Pasco County parents concerned.

“AI is a very scary thing and people are not aware of the danger it can cause,” said Cassie Rogers, a parent in Wesley Chapel.

She told 8 On Your Side she’s planning to take her kids out of school.

“It’s pretty scary,” she explained. “You just don’t know–private school, public school, Christian school, Catholic school–you just don’t know anymore.”

Though her grandchildren go to a different elementary school, she was devastated to hear what had happened to kids so close to home.

“I was sick to my stomach thinking about the parents, and what they’d have to deal with,” she said. “The thought of their child being in this made-up act or their face on their made-up act, I can imagine the heartbreak they had.”

On Wednesday, the state argued for a high bond to be set saying, “He is a teacher and is in a position of power around children and has authority around children which brings great concern to the state.”

The judge seemed to agree, telling Houser, “Bonds will be set at $100,000 each,” meaning $100,000 per count of possessing child pornography. Therefore, Houser’s bond was set to $500,000.

So why was Houser never charged for using yearbook photos of three students to generate AI child erotica?

Attorney Bryant Camareno, who is unaffiliated with this case, said that under existing laws, AI-generated child pornography is actually legal.

“Taking pictures and unfortunately superposing them on children in erotic situations is not a crime as defined by the Supreme Court,” he explained.

Camareno pointed to one of his own cases saying, “My client was accused of having real children in erotic situations and then he superposed pictures on adult bodies.”

“He wasn’t charged with that,” he continued. “He couldn’t be charged with that because of that supreme court opinion…that came out in 2002.”

Camareno said in that ruling, the Supreme Court made a distinction between artistic value and obscenity.

“Movies like American Beauty, the original Romeo and Juliet from back in the 60s, the Supreme Court said, if we were to abide by the statute the way it’s written, we’re going to have to ban all of those movies,” Camareno explained. “It’s a fine line.”

“You and I may not think that’s art, but if it’s not obscenity, then it’s art and free speech and protected,” he continued.

But Camareno explained that there are limitations.

“It’s not a crime, because no harm was actually committed upon the children,” he continued. “Granted it’s wrong, morally wrong, but it doesn’t rise to stalking, cyberstalking, harassments, unless he’s disseminating those pictures, especially to the young child and that causes distress, otherwise that’s not a crime.”

“So if you distribute, then that’s a whole different ball game?” asked 8 On Your Side reporter Nicole Rogers.

“That’s a whole different ball game,” he agreed. “It’s still not child porn, but it’s a different ball game because now you’re doing it with the intention to harass or there’s consequences that that child is being harassed and potentially threatened.”

“So, if the laws do need to be rewritten, how would that need to come about?”, Rogers then asked.

“We could start at the state level, but ultimately unless they meet the language that is cited in the Supreme Court opinion, it’s going to be struck down,” he explained.

Camareno said any changes would need to happen at the federal level.

“Congress needs to come up with a law that meets the definition of child pornography as the way the Supreme Court witnessed it or identified it and if they don’t do that, more of these cases are going to pop up and nothing can be done about it,” he explained.

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