Florida mother faces 15 years in prison for making and selling 'racy' breastfeeding videos
The videos were discovered after a man downloaded them and his wife then lodged a complaint because both the mother and child 'were nude' in the videos
A single mother from Florida who has already spent three years in jail for some racy breastfeeding videos that she made and uploaded on YouTube has been acquitted of 33 of her 34 charges by a Tallahassee jury. However, 34-year-old Leigh Felten was found guilty of one count of lascivious performance, a second-degree felony defined as an "intentional sexual performance in the presence of a child younger than 16" which can carry a possible 15-year prison sentence.
According to AZ Central, Felten's act was discovered after a Wisconsin man downloaded several of her videos and paid for them using a PayPal account in 2015. The man's wife then filed a complaint with the local police department because both the mother and child "were nude" in the videos. A Crawford County Sheriff's Office deputy then reviewed a few of the videos — which were labeled with suggestive titles such as 'Good Little Boy' and 'Mommy's a Whore' — and it was declared that the video "was clearly not for the purpose of education or artistic display."
The videos allegedly showed Felten "rubbing oil on herself and the child" and that one point "the female’s vagina and the child’s penis appear to be in contact with one another." Investigators at the Tallahassee Police Department also found a Google+ account with the same email address as the 34-year-old's YouTube page with a post that read, "New unlisted vids for a donation. Please support a single mommy."
She was apprehended at her residence and more videos were found on her laptop. Rolling Stone reports that the State Attorney's Office charged Felten with 45 sexual offenses, including cruelty towards a child, promoting sexual performance against a child, lewd and lascivious behavior and molestation, and several counts of capital sexual battery, or rape.
The 34-year-old was denied bond on several occasions, with the case moving forward earlier this year after her attorney John Eagen filed a motion to argue that the single mother should not be charged at all. "Ms. Felten cannot be prosecuted for anything involving her breastfeeding. Period. Full stop," Eagen wrote, pointing out that Florida law protects the act of breastfeeding against prosecution.
"That means that breastfeeding, no matter how ‘sexy’ or ‘titillating’ the manner in which it is done, can never be deemed to legally constitute ‘an unnatural or lascivious act, sexual conduct or computer pornography’ in the state of Florida," he continued.
The defense had previously also attempted to dismiss 10 of the videos which showed Felten breastfeeding the child that had been submitted as evidence. They said the videos were protected free speech and that they had been unlawfully seized. Assistant State Attorney Lorena Vollrath-Bueno, however, countered that child pornography is one of the exceptions granted by the US Supreme Court.
Presiding Leon County Judge Angela Dempsey agreed with the latter, ruling that the videos were not protected free speech. Following that ruling, the defense even tried to get Dempsey dismissed, citing her ties with the Catholic church as the reason, though that motion was denied as well.
Rolling Stone reported that the case went to trial this past week and that it was Felten who took the stand in her own defense. She told the jury that she was "ashamed" and that she had made the videos because she suffered from depression and low self-esteem after the child's father left her following the birth, insisting she was "not a monster." When asked if she believed what she did was wrong, she said, "I don’t believe it is criminal. Morally it was not right. I feel like I was overcharged."
The jury agreed and was not convinced that the videos amounted to rape and child molestation. Speaking about the verdict, Eagen said, "I could not be happier, I think the jury did exactly what they were told to do or ask to do and that was to follow the law and apply the law to the facts and thank God they didn’t try this case over morality."
Felten is scheduled to be sentenced in November and Vollrath-Bueno made her intentions to seek the maximum penalty of 15 years clear. "Of course, I had a different view of the evidence than the jurors," she said. "I respect their decision and how hard a job they have. She will be facing 15 years and be a registered sex offender. I’m happy to say she lost custody of her son and he is safe."