Two area lawmakers have introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would create criminal and civil penalties for disseminating an image of a crime victim to glorify violence or abuse the victim or families.
The bills by Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, D-119, Marcy, and Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-47, Rome, in their respective houses were prompted by events surrounding the July 2019 murder of Bianca Devins, 17, of Utica. Photos of her body were posted on social media. Her family was made aware of the death after they received the photos on their own social media accounts, and accounts have been found dedicated to analyzing the crime that promise to share the photos in exchange for shares or likes.
Buttenschon and Griffo’s legislation would establish the crimes of unlawful dissemination of a personal image in the first, second and third degree, and create a right of private action against such offenses. This legislation would not apply to the reporting of unlawful conduct; the sharing of images made during lawful and common practices of law enforcement, legal proceedings or medical treatment; the sharing of images involving activities in a public or commercial setting where legal activities are being conducted; or to the sharing of images shared which are made for a legitimate public purpose. “The family and friends of Bianca Devins, as well as so many other victims of unspeakable crimes, have already suffered so much heartbreak, grief and pain. They should not have to continue to relive such horrendous experiences through various mediums that have been exploited by others.” Griffo said.
“While this legislation was created with Devins in mind, it’s designed to hold any individuals who share these images accountable,” Buttenschon said. “We need to make it clear that spreading images to glorify violent offenses or cause trauma to victims and family members will not be tolerated.”
Brandon A. Clark of Cicero pleaded guilty to the murder in February, and last month, his attempt to withdraw his plea was turned down.