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Exchange Student Host Dad Not Yet Facing Charges

by Katie Pyzyk October 3, 2012 at 10:55 am 4,859 35 Comments

The exchange student who accused her host father of taking nude pictures of her isn’t pressing charges, at least for now.

According to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, the girl was simply focused on getting back to her home in Germany, and has not wanted police involvement thus far. However, the possibility of her pressing charges remains, we’re told, and police continue to be in contact with her.

Police say the girl had been staying with a family in the Donaldson Run neighborhood before discovering nude photos of herself on her host father’s USB drive last month. ACPD declined to release extensive details about the case due to the girl being a juvenile and the police investigation continuing.

ARLnow.com has learned that the girl came to Arlington through the Program of Academic Exchange (PAX), which is a State Department-designated agency. PAX did not return our calls, but State Department Director of Media Relations Susan Pittman confirmed the agency’s involvement. She declined to provide any more information due to the ongoing investigation.

The State Department oversees the issuing of J-1 visas, which cover exchange students and workers. It vets certain organizations and designates them as sponsors for exchange programs. Participants in exchange programs must be sponsored in order to enter the country.

Should an exchange program participant come forward with something “untoward” happening during their stay in the U.S., the sponsor agency is required to immediately report the incident to the State Department. Because the State Department itself is not an enforcement agency, cases are often turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for investigation.

“We look over to make sure these people are actually enforcing the regulations that are there. If they’re not, it will be sent to the proper law enforcement authorities,” Pittman said. “We then make sure the participant is put into a safer environment. Safety is our overriding concern in all of this.”

While the State Department does not rate sponsors, designation indicates that the agency is compliant with all regulations and is in good standing. Pittman said should action need to be taken against offending organizations, there are different levels of sanctioning. However, investigations often indicate unfortunate situations can occur even when an agency closely follows all regulations and properly screens host families.

“While certainly there are some reports of some acts that may impinge upon the safety of the participant, it may not be the fault of anybody at the agency, it may have just happened,” Pittman said. “The number of incidents is really low compared to the number of people who come through.”

Last year, there were two State Department-designated agencies that brought 541 secondary school exchange students to Virginia. Pittman did not have information on how many incidents occurred last year, if any, requiring an investigation. She did say the number is consistently low and the State Department works to prevent and eradicate threats to safety.

“We are committed to identifying and eliminating potential threats and dangerous situations for students, and any participants, visiting the United States,” said Pittman. “Although the vast majority of the participants have positive experiences, even one negative experience is one too many. We work diligently and continuously to address all concerns and to ensure every participant in our exchange program has a safe and positive experience.”

  • Ben

    So to summarize – basically typical government finger pointing?

  • Douglas Parker

    Isn’t this a criminal matter that is prosecuted regardless of the victim pressing charges?

    Especially in light of the fact she is a minor.

    • drax

      Yeah, I think so. I think the real story is that she’s not willing to cooperate with police yet – in other words, she won’t come back to the U.S. to testify in court, and they can’t compel her testimony if they wanted to.

    • Leeway Heights

      If she’s not cooperative, you can’t substantiate anything and build a case.

      • Douglas Parker

        I see, but what about the USB drive with the pictures on it?

        Thanks for the clarification!

        • drax

          Maybe the police don’t have the USB.

        • Bender

          If they have the physical evidence, e.g. the photos on his computer, all they need is for someone to verify the girl is underage. The relevant charge is not taking the pictures, the relevant charge is possession of child pornography.

          Anyone who has direct knowledge of her being underage can testify to that, she does not have to testify herself.

          If the victims themselves were required to testify in order to convict, charges could never be brought in a murder case.

    • Observer

      I would think so. If you possess pictures of a nude minor, you are probably violating some kind of law, regardless of the nationality/State Department rigmarole.

      I hope they’ve put a hold on the guy’s passport while they figure out what to do.

      • Dee

        possession of child porn is a law

        • Danno

          What – you mean it’s a law I have to possess it?

          • Joe Hoya

            Yup. Please report to the County Courthouse and request your allotment of child pornography.

      • SomeGuy

        I believe there’s a picture of me in a bathtub at a young age. My parents should probably be arrested.

        • SomeGuy

          (there actually isn’t; it’s a hypothetical)

          • drax

            Sadly, parents HAVE been arrested for exactly that by overzealous authorities.

          • Dave

            Any prosecutions and guilty verdicts?

          • Leo Getz

            Any examples?

          • drax


            “For A.J. and Lisa Demaree, the photos they snapped of their young daughters were innocent and sweet.

            But after a photo developer at Walmart thought otherwise, the Demarees found themselves in a yearlong battle to prove they were not child pornographers.

            “I don’t’ understand it at all,” A.J. Demaree told “Good Morning America” Monday. “Ninety-nine percent of the families in America have these exact same photos.”

            The eight photos in question were among a batch of 144 family photos the Demarees had taken to their local Walmart. The developer alerted the police and the investigation into child pornography began in earnest, even though the parents maintained they were innocent bath time photos.

            The Peoria, Ariz., couple had their home searched by police and worse, their children — then ages 18 months, 4 and 5 — were taken from them for more than month. Their names were placed on a sex offender registry for a time, and Lisa Demaree was suspended from her school job for a year. The couple said they have spent $75,000 on legal bills.”

          • in stitches

            They were not arrested.

            Any examples?

          • drax

            “The Peoria, Ariz., couple had their home searched by police and worse, their children — then ages 18 months, 4 and 5 — were taken from them for more than month. Their names were placed on a sex offender registry for a time, and Lisa Demaree was suspended from her school job for a year. The couple said they have spent $75,000 on legal bills.”

            Are you here just to quibble about details for no apparent reason?

          • Josh S

            You’ve got to be kidding. Their children were taken away from them for a month.

            That’s about 1,000 times worse than being arrested.

          • Tired mom

            Sounds like a vacation to me.

          • SomeGuy

            I’ll concur with drax on this one. You’re debating semantics. The point is, people have endured significant legal consequences for being in possession of innocent photos.

            I’ll also concur with Tired Mom.

          • Dave

            So, none.

  • Leeway Heights

    This is the type of hard-hitting international journalism I expect from ArlNow!

    • DingleNugs

      And this is the type of stupid comment I expect from a commenter!

      • Leeway Heights

        It was a joke. Someone else has been making comments about the rather mundane articles recently posted. This actually was some pretty in depth reporting on these programs so I was being tongue in cheek.

        • drax

          All media outlets have a mix of big and small stories. In a newspaper, the small ones go in different sections and are of different size. In this blog, they’re all the same size and prominence, so people get upset. They should lighten up.

  • Captain_Obvious

    I vote cas….oh nevermind, it’ll just get deleted anyway. But really, hope this guy gets punished somehow and not just humiliation.

    • Arlingtoon

      Humiliation, in the form of the sex offenders registry, would actually be helpful. If his daughter invited my daughter to a sleepover at this guy’s house, I’d want to know about his history of taking pictures of naked minors.

  • JimPB

    Great to have follow-up on this.

    • John Fontain

      I agree. I like it when interesting stories are followed up on.

  • APS

    The police have an extra-ordinary amount of discretion to determine the action as a civil matter and not a criminal case.
    The instant case is not unusual in Arlington.

  • GodFila

    The monthly PMRs (performance measure reports) may be held in abeyance until this gets closed out. Resulting tax increases
    may occur. (Cringing encouraged)….

  • SteamboatWillie

    Presumably, everyone in this guy’s neighborhood is aware of the incident and can identify the guy easily – I mean how many families are hosting German exchange students in that cul-de-sac? Then, those same neighbors can defend or prematurely condemn (depending on one’s viewpoint) him.

    Based only on the reports on ArlNow, the case seems straightforward and the dad appears to be a real scumbag, deserving of public shame at a minimum. But, there well could be a reasonable explanation that absolves him. I can’t think of one, but I suppose it’s possible.

    • drax

      You’ve got to be kidding. This is Arlnow. He’s guilty! Get a rope!


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