A domestic dispute in Union Township over the weekend resulted in the first “revenge porn” charges filed in Centre County.
State police at Philipsburg arrested Michael Metz, 26, of Julian, on misdemeanor charges of simple assault, false imprisonment and unlawful dissemination of intimate materials Saturday morning after his wife called them to report that she had been assaulted by Metz, according to the criminal complaint.
The woman said she returned home from a night of drinking with a male friend at about 12:45 a.m. Saturday and found Metz waiting for them with a pistol in his hand, although she said he didn’t point the gun at anyone, according to court documents.
She said she went inside the house to call police, but Metz pulled the phone cord out of the wall and threw the land line and her cellphone in the front yard, according to police. When she tried to leave, she said, Metz slammed her finger in the door and grabbed her by the arm before she was able to free herself and call police from another residence, according to court documents.
The dissemination charge stemmed from five photos of the woman — some depicting her in her underwear and some of her nude — that Metz is suspected of putting on her Facebook page the night of the incident, police said.
Posting the photos would not have been a chargeable offense this time last year. The unlawful dissemination count is the result of a 2014 law in response to “revenge porn,” explicit content posted online without consent to humiliate a romantic partner.
Under the state law, which took effect in September, a person can be charged if they disseminate photos or video of a love interest in the nude or engaging in sexual activity “with intent to harass, annoy or alarm a current or former sexual or intimate partner,” according to the statute. The woman told police that she and Metz were still married and living with each other, but are planning to divorce, according to court documents.
As of March, the charges have been filed in 11 cases throughout the state, according to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. It’s the first time the offense has been charged in Centre County, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said.
Parks Miller said those accused of the second-degree misdemeanor are eligible for probation, although each situation dictates the sentence pursued by prosecutors.
Although this is the first time the charge has been filed locally, Parks Miller said that, prior to the law’s passage, her office encountered the now-punishable offenses.
“It’s a welcome addition to the crimes code when the code catches up with technology,” she said.
Metz also faces a summary harassment charge. He was arraigned before District Judge Steven Lachman on Saturday and taken to Centre County Correctional Facility in lieu of $25,000 bail.
An attorney for Metz was not listed on court documents. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.