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Wednesday, June 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Another Embarrassment for The Citadel

CHARLESTON, S.C. (CN) - The father of a cadet at The Citadel claims the military academy failed to prevent a male cadet from using its computers to post on the Internet his daughter's name and phone number under a photo of a woman masturbating.

The complaint in the Court of Common Pleas is another blow to the storied South Carolina military academy, which came under public and legal scrutinyafter the arrest of an alleged sexual predator who was said to have preyed on young boys who attended an annual summer camp hosted by the college.

In his complaint, Randy Upton describes The Citadel as an institution where reality is at stark odds with its image of promoting "honor, duty, ethics, respect, and responsibility" among its cadets.

"In reality," Upton says, "The Citadel has a storied history of sexual discrimination against women, child molesters preying upon children within the walls of the Institute while such children attended its summer camp, and now failing to control one of its students from using campus resources to defame, debase and humiliate the plaintiff [Upton's daughter] on a pornographic website."

Upton complains of a "growth of a culture, years in the making at The Citadel, ripe for acts for sexual deviancy and degradation of women," of which his daughter is the latest victim to come forward.

His daughter, a minor and a plaintiff, claims that on Nov. 10, 2010 she received a text message from a phone number in Iowa she did not recognize. She responded by asking the sender how he got her number, and he responded by telling her it was posted on the sextingpics.com website, according to the complaint.

She told her boyfriend was happened, and he contacted the individual, who directed him to the page on the website, the complaint states.

"The boyfriend followed these instructions, which led him to an explicit pornographic image of a young girl masturbating. [The daughter-plaintiff's] name and cell phone number were posted in the comments section for the photo, indicating that [she] was the person shown and advising how to contact her," the complaint states.

"[The daughter] then opened the website and screamed in horror, became sick and cried uncontrollably," the complaint states. "Soon thereafter ... hysterically crying and distraught, [she] contacted her father and told him what transpired. ... [Her] father, Randy Upton, directed that [she] immediately print copies of the image and comment and fax them to him with the pornographic images blacked out. Copies of the images are attached hereto as Exhibit 2."

Upon returning home from work, Randy Upton says, he went to the website and found that two images that had been uploaded to it were identified as being of his daughter and included her contact information.

Although sextingpics.com removed the girl's name and number from the page on multiple occasions, someone, identified on the website as "know," "Damn," and "Ha-ha" repeatedly put the information back, the father says.

Upton claims, "Defendant Steven Smith, using a computer and Internet connection provided, monitored, and/or controlled by defendant Citadel, posted the foregoing comment on sextingpics.com."

Upton claims that Smith admitted it in February this year, and in March testimony to The Citadel Commandant's Board "apologized at the time for publicly attributing the minor [girl's] personal information to the two sexually graphic images on the pornographic website."

Upton adds: "Defendant Citadel, despite knowledge of the likelihood of its cadets engaging in such activity and despite having the right and ability to control its network computers and users, did absolutely nothing to prevent, or attempt to prevent, Smith from accessing sextingpics.com or to otherwise ensure that defendant Smith would not act in the matter described."

Even after Smith confessed, The Citadel "had no policies in place to filter students' usage, or in any way block or filter usage by students of The Citadel computer network," the complaint states.

And, the father adds, "no disciplinary action has been taken by defendant Citadel against defendant Smith in relation to this matter."

The father and his daughter seek punitive damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, gross negligence, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress.

Named as defendants are The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and Andrew Steven Smith.

The father and daughter are represented by Lawrence Richter Jr. of Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

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