Below please find a statement by Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin on the Governor's veto of H7537/S2540 which overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly and enjoyed broad support from law enforcement, victim advocacy groups, and civil rights professors and attorneys:
"Whereas I respect the prerogative of the governor to veto legislation, I am dismayed that Governor Raimondo vetoed a bill that helps protect victims of sexploitation, most of whom are women. My office has vetted this bill internally for over four years now and analyzed similar legislation that has been enacted in 34 other states. I am confident that after review by our criminal, civil, and appellate units, as well as by the General Assembly, that we could have easily and successfully defended the constitutionality of the bill if challenged. We provided the Governor's office with documentation on the bill upon transmission and spoke directly with her office and her attorneys. We respectfully disagree with their recent analysis of this bill, and believe that this is a privacy issue for the victims not a First Amendment issue for sexploiters. This bill was carefully worded due to our real concern for the victims who would have has a sense of justice had this bill not been vetoed.
Our local law enforcement partners have had to turn away real victims of these crimes because there are no applicable laws to address this issue, including a young woman whose ex-boyfriend posted explicit photos of her without her permission on the website www.myexgf.com. Our office will continue to help guide victims of sextortion and revenge porn to proper counseling and support agencies, unfortunately we will still have to inform them that the criminal justice and statutory system continues to be weak on this issue and we cannot assist them in holding the person responsible accountable.
The veto statement clearly relies on the misleading analysis of entities such as the Motion Picture Association of America and other special interest groups, entities that have consistently lobbied for laws that weaken our criminal justice system in Rhode Island and nationally. Our requisite legal analysis on this issue makes their argument weak and was provided to the administration.
The veto message cites possible images that would be broadly swept under this act such as photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib, wartime atrocities or humanitarian disasters like famine, interestingly enough similar images that opponents used in their opposition testimony, that could not be farther from the truth. This statute was drafted to contain five (5) different exemptions based on at least eight (8) other states laws that would protect every conceivable scenario of protected speech, therefore, the only scenario this bill criminalizes is the dissemination of sexually explicit and purely private images without the consent of the victim.
Opponents of this bill wrongfully suggest that intent to harass motive requirements are necessary. This is a red herring. Harassment laws already exist and are inadequate to respond to the privacy concerns regarding sextortion. If intent to harass or other limiting intent language were to exist, as opponents of this bill misleadingly propose, a sexploiter who seeks to profit off the exploitation of another can do so as long as they do not intend to harass. This type of language would create a realistically unenforceable statute and be a defense attorney's dream.
Further, other state and federal privacy laws do not contain specific motive requirements and certainly do not include an arbitrary terms of intent requirements. For example, Rhode Island's comprehensive identity theft protection law penalizes unauthorized disclosure of private information with no requirement of an intent to defraud. This is also true of medical records laws and our financial transaction fraud law.
This bill garnered support among numerous organizations including the Rhode Island State Police, Day One, The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative. It passed the Rhode Island House of Representatives 68 – 1 and unanimously passed the Rhode Island Senate. The bill was written to protect the privacy rights of victims and in no way infringes on anyone's legitimate rights of free speech. The countless victims who are routinely threatened, stalked, harassed, fired from jobs and even commit suicide because of sextortion would have been better protected by this bill."