Ronda Kaysen: Perez Hilton, the infamous Hollywood gossip king, made a name for himself by publishing crotch shots of scantily dressed celebrities and covering their faces with Microsoft Paint "bodily fluid" and expletives. But this weekend, his actions may have crossed the line from crude to criminal.
On Sunday, a missive sent via his Twitter account included a link to a picture of Miley Cyrus' exposed crotch. What makes Miley's crotch different from Britney Spears' is her tender age. At 17, Miley is still very much a minor, and posting a photo of her labia on the Internet is child pornography -- a charge that carries with it a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence, even for someone named Perez Hilton.
Salon got the skinny on Hilton's situation from Jeffrey Douglas, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney who specializes in child pornography cases. The short answer? It doesn't look pretty for Hilton.
Hilton's liability is "extraordinary and intense," Douglas told Salon. "[It was] suicidal for him to do this .... We're not talking about a misdemeanor. You don't have to know what the definition of the law is; all you have to do is knowingly distribute the photograph."
So what, exactly, was in the scandalous Twitter post? It read, "If you are easily offended, do NOT click here http://i46.tinypic.com/2rze4pv.jpg Oh, Miley! Warning: truly not for the easily offended!" The link, which is long gone, showed a picture of Miley hopping out of a car in a short white skirt with, presumably, her nether parts on view for all to see. A link to a censored version of the picture is still online.
There's been speculation that the photo was doctored, that Miley had actually been wearing panties and that the crotch in question was a Photoshop creation. But that doesn't matter, according to Douglas. Even pasting a picture of a child's head on a naked grown-up body is considered child porn. And it doesn't matter whether you took the picture or never even had it in your possession: Forwarding a link is enough to get you in serious trouble with the law.
So what's likely to happen to Hilton? A zealous prosecutor could pick up the case and slap him with a felony charge, which would land him in jail for 15 years and put him on the registered-sex-offender list for life. The other possibility is that nothing will happen to him at all. If a prosecutor doesn't want to get himself entangled in a media circus, he won't.
But one thing is certain: Perez Hilton definitely went too far this time, and his mission to shock has taken him into treacherous waters.
The Internet child porn laws are over-the-top, what with kids getting charged as sex offenders for sexting other kids and parents getting arrested for taking pictures of their little ones in the tub. But Perez Hilton knows that Miley is a minor, and he's presumably schooled in the laws of the Internet (or at least he should be, since it's his livelihood).
UPDATE: Perez says Miley was wearing underwear. Check out his video response here:
What do you think? Should they throw the book at Perez Hilton, or is this just making a mountain out of a molehill?