WEST CHESTER, Pa. -- Four Chester County middle school students have been charged in connection with a sexting and cyberbullying scandal.
Those in court Thursday heard a statement written by the young girl who said she was victimized in this case. The statement was not about the specific crime, but more of a call to others who might be victims to not lose hope and to contact authorities.
The young girl in this case, who is now in high school, was a middle school student in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District last year when all this began.
Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan framed what happened as a story of bullying and a broken heart in the cyber age.
At a press conference Thursday, Hogan said, "We had a group of boys in a school in Chester County who used sexting, cyberbullying and traditional bullying to make a young girl's life miserable. They isolated her. They made fun of her. They did everything they could to make her life hell on earth."
According to the DA, the victim was coerced by her then-boyfriend to share naked or partially naked photos with him. He promised only he would see them and that he would delete them immediately, Hogan said.
After they broke up, she started dating another boy. The scorned ex-boyfriend, now mad, allegedly shared the nude photos with others.
From there the images are shared with more and more people, and bullying begins - it's an online smear campaign.
Hogan explains, "One of these boys actually took a picture of two adults engaged in a sex act, and pasted... this girl's face onto that picture and sent it around."
Four boys are now charged from of this investigation.
"There are four boys in total that have been charged with criminal offenses. Those criminal offenses range everything from sexting, to harassment, to illegal use of a communications facility, to transmission of obscene materials," Hogan said.
Three of the boys, including the ex-boyfriend, were charged in this specific case. The fourth boy was charged in a similar but unrelated case that authorities came across during their investigation.
Hogan says what occurred is not rare. Parents, he says, need to examine their kid's phones and become aware that incriminating images can be hidden using the cloud or disguised smart phone apps called "vault apps."
During the press conference Hogan showed what appears to be an innocuous calculator app on a smart phone. It actually hides encrypted photos in a digital vault.
The district attorney was at recent meeting with parents.
He explains, "I pulled out my phone and showed a bunch of parents the vault because I knew we would be talking about it. And outside of the parents in the tech industry, they were all flabbergasted, they had no idea."
The message from the DA is for parents to be aware. He said what parents need to do is talk to their children and look at their smart phones, their tablets, their online accounts, computers and such, and learn as much as they can about these so-called "vault apps" and other ways their children may hide images within the system.
4 boys charged in middle school sexting scandal