They say they never expected Port High senior to be prosecuted under revenge porn law for locker room video
Port Washington-Saukville School officials said last week that they were shocked when a 17-year-old Port High student accused of taking a video of locker room shenanigans and posting it on Snapchat was charged with a felony under a law intended to prosecute jilted lovers who post nude photos of their exes online to exact revenge.
“It was definitely a surprise to us,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “We thought if anything he might face a misdemeanor or just receive a warning.
“Sometimes people get caught up in the law, and it’s not fair and it’s not right.”
Thad Gabrielse, Port High’s dean of students and athletic director, said school officials were obligated to report the Nov. 10 incident to police because the video was posted on the Internet, but said they didn’t think doing so would result in one of their students being charged with a felony.
“Tanner is a very good kid,” Gabrielse said. “He was fooling around and didn’t think.
“Even we (administrators) didn’t realize the extent of the consequences.”
Gabrielse was referring to senior Tanner
R. Meinel, who on Dec. 29 was charged in Ozaukee County Circuit Court with capturing an image of nudity in a locker room under a statute referred to as Wisconsin’s revenge porn law. The felony Meinel faces is punishable by a maximum 1-1/2 years in prison and two years of extended supervision.
Meinel is accused of recording a cell phone video that shows the naked backside of a 16-year-old as he is retrieving his underwear in a school locker room after phy-ed class, then posting it to the popular mobile app that self-deletes images and videos 10 seconds after they’re opened.
According to a Port Washington Police Department report, a student who received the Snapchat video reported it to Gabrielse. School officials then notified police of the incident, which occurred around 10:20 a.m.
Among the students interviewed by officer Eric Leet was the 16-year-old pictured in the video, who said he was showering when two other students started joking around by pretending they were going to throw his underwear in the shower.
A short time later, the 16-year-old said, he exited the shower and found his underwear hanging from a speaker box. He retrieved his underwear, then noticed Meinel making a video of him with his cell phone. He said he did not agree to be recorded on video or to have the video distributed, and was embarrassed by the incident, according to the police report.
“He indicated that although he didn’t want to get anyone in trouble over the matter, he stated that he was disturbed by the video and its distribution,” Leet wrote in the report.
Meinel admitted taking the video and posting it on Snapchat after happening upon the scene, but said he meant no harm to the teenager shown in the video, whom he considered a friend.
“He (Meinel) indicated that he wasn’t trying to embarrass (the 16-year-old) and that he believed they were actually friends,” Leet wrote in his report. “He stated that it was just kind of a funny scene and he sent it out as more of a joke.”
Leet spoke with other students who confirmed that the “horseplay” with the underwear was not done to stage the video taken by Meinel. The officer then told administrators that he considered the creation of the video and its distribution “very serious,” adding that he would be “looking at and considering a request for criminal charges,” according to the report.
Ultimately, Leet asked the district attorney to charge Meinel with the felony he now faces.
This week, Gabrielse confirmed that Port High administrators received a report from Meinel’s mother of a similar incident that occurred later in November and involved a video of the same teenager who was recorded by her son.
Gabrielse said he investigated and discovered that members of the wrestling team re-enacted the scene Meinel had recorded in a locker room after school and that the teenager who Meinel recorded participated in the re-enactment.
But, Gabrielse said, there was no evidence that a video was recorded.
“We looked into it and didn’t find anything,” he said.
Gabrielse said he consulted with Leet, who agreed there was no basis for an investigation.
“Since then we’ve talked to our coaches and teachers about helping students understand there are consequences when these things happen,” Gabrielse said, referring to having cell phones in locker rooms and using them to record and distribute images.
Meinel, whose school punishment was a five day suspension, is scheduled to make his initial court appearance before Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland on Feb. 7.
So-called revenge porn laws are relatively new form of legislation intended to target an increasing number of people who, empowered by access to potentially millions of viewers via the Internet, post nude or partially nude photos of ex-lovers to exact revenge.
Wisconsin’s revenge porn law was passed in 2014.