Maryland Mayor Is Charged in ‘Revenge Porn’ Case

Andrew Bradshaw, the mayor of Cambridge, on the state’s Eastern Shore, posted nude photos of a former partner on Reddit, along with degrading comments and racial slurs, prosecutors said.

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The mayor of a city on Maryland’s Eastern Shore was arrested on Monday and accused of posting nude photographs of a former romantic partner in online forums using sexually explicit language and racial epithets.

Andrew Bradshaw, the mayor of Cambridge, Md., was charged with 50 counts of violating a state law banning so-called revenge porn, or the nonconsensual sharing of sexually explicit photos or videos.

The state prosecutor’s office said Mr. Bradshaw, 32, had posted images of his former partner without her consent in April and May on the website Reddit, where users share and comment on links in subject-specific forums.

The charges against Mr. Bradshaw were the latest in a series of high-profile revenge porn cases in recent years, and groups that support survivors of sexual violence say there has been an increase in reports of revenge porn and other forms of online sexual harassment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Aaron Coleman was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives last year after admitting that he had harassed girls online while he was in middle school. This month, Mr. Coleman, a Democrat, was arrested and charged with domestic battery.

Katie Hill, a Democratic former congresswoman from California, resigned in October 2019 after nude photos she said had been taken of her without her consent were posted online.

And in 2017, the Defense Department opened an investigation into an all-male, invitation-only Facebook group called Marines United, in which members shared thousands of nude and other private photos of Marine Corps women without their knowledge or consent.

The Maryland state prosecutor, Charlton T. Howard III, said in a charging document that Mr. Bradshaw had posted nude photographs of his former partner in several Reddit groups, or subreddits, and had written comments that were degrading and sexually explicit and included racial epithets.

The photos were posted by accounts that had public user names made up of combinations of the victim’s name and birth date, Mr. Howard said. She is not named in the charging document and is instead identified as Victim 1.

She told the authorities about the posts in May, according to the charging document, and said that the only person she had shared the photos with was Mr. Bradshaw. Prosecutors said they had connected the posts to an internet protocol address at his home.

Mr. Bradshaw defeated a three-term incumbent in a runoff election in December and was sworn in as mayor of Cambridge, which has a population of about 13,000, in January.

A lawyer for Mr. Bradshaw, Michael Belsky, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Bradshaw was arrested and released on his own recognizance on Monday, according to court documents. He faces a maximum penalty of 100 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted on all counts.

Reddit bans users from posting nude photos without the subject’s permission. A representative said the company was investigating the incident and would remove any related content that violated its policies.

The city of Cambridge said in a statement that its business would not be affected by the case because the head of its administrative business is the city manager, not the mayor.

Lisae C. Jordan, the executive director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the case against Mr. Bradshaw was a “vivid example” of the type of harassment survivors are describing as reports of revenge porn and online harassment have surged during the pandemic.

“More and more, we’re seeing people being faced with revenge porn, sexual exploitation with online sexual harassment,” Ms. Jordan said.

The landscape for revenge porn cases has shifted significantly over the past decade. In 2013, three states had criminalized nonconsensual pornography. Today, 48 states have done so, said Mary Anne Franks, the president and legislative and tech policy director at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. Maryland’s revenge porn law went into effect in 2014.

Dr. Franks said Maryland’s law, like others in the United States, was too restrictive because, to convict someone, prosecutors must prove that the person who shared the photos intended to cause serious emotional distress.

That standard can protect people who say they posted photos for profit, to improve standing in their community or because they didn’t think the individual in the photo would care, Dr. Franks said. Prosecutors might have an easier time proving malicious intent in Mr. Bradshaw’s case, she said, because of the breadth and cruelty of the posts prosecutors accused him of making.

“What’s so troubling about these kinds of crimes is they can’t really be undone in any way,” Dr. Franks said. “You can’t compensate a victim afterward. You can’t really give her back what she has lost.”

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