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Breastfeeding Picture Gets Couple Charged with Child Porn, Children Taken

Posted Jul 31 2009 11:10am

Jacqueline Mercado of Richardson, Texas, dropped off fours rolls of film at a nearby Eckerd. The pictures that came from them, taken last fall, would tear apart her family.

According to the Dallas Observer:

In one–the photo that would threaten to send Mercado and her boyfriend to prison–the infant Rodrigo is suckling her left breast.

The technician at the Eckerd thought various photos were “suspicious ” and lied to Mercado when she went to pick up the photos, returning only 3 of the 4 rolls. Later, when the police arrived, they confiscated the photos and passed them on to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, which got indictments against Mercado and boyfriend Johnny Fernandez, who had just arrived from Peru when the pictures were taken.

We thought they contained sexuality.If you saw the photos, you’d know what I mean.

(Ew! Don’t you expect a nudge and a grunt following that comment?!)

The couple was charged with “sexual performance of a child”, a second-degree felony which could carry up to 20 years in prison.

This is the photo in question, though fuzzy in the Observer, for obvious reasons,

The charges centered on a single photo, the breast-feeding shot. Fernandez and Mercado say they took it–although the child had ceased breast-feeding–to memorialize that stage of their baby’s development.

‘We wanted to see if he would take it, and he did,’ says Mercado, explaining through an interpreter that it was a spur-of-the moment notion to which they gave little thought. ‘Johnny never saw the child breast-feeding, so this was for memories. For us.’

Mercado is understandably traumatized by the experience. After the indictments, a state child welfare investigator and two detectives arrived at the couple’s house and rummaged through their stuff, including photo albums. They found nothing related to child porn.

In her native Peru, Mercado says it is not unusual for people to photograph their children nude. They call it– gasp! –natural.

One of the lawyers working on the case for the couple commented,

Their theory, which is supported by nothing, is that these pictures were taken to satisfy the boyfriend’s sexual desires. These aren’t pictures that were peddled on the open market. This wasn’t on someone’s Web site. This is just a mother who took a roll of film and left it off at Eckerd’s. The state used them to arrest her, indict her for a felony and take away her kids.

The same day the house was “tossed” the caseworker recommended the children be taken and put in a foster home. They were.

In March, after the Dallas Observer asked lead D.A. about the case, it was ordered that charges be dropped against the couple.

Still, they don’t have their kids back, though even their Guardian ad Litem recommended that the family be reuinited. Lawyers say that it will happen, hopefully soon.

They ripped out my heart. Even if we get them back, I don’t know how we’ll recover from what’s been done.

When the Observer reported the story, the couple still did not have their children back, but had visitation. They took psychological exams and had agreed to “group treatment for sexual issues”.

As a side note, I know the fear that parents have in taking and developing photos of their children. When my older son was about a year and a half old, we took him camping. I later tried to get the film developed and was told that they wouldn’t release select photos because of Target’s child porn rules. The photos in question were sequential: 1) Baby boy playing by the water. 2) Baby boy no longer wearing onesie. 3) Baby boy no longer wearing diaper, in various splashing shots. I was told,

We’ll give you the pictures on the CD, if you can find anyone else who would develop them for you.

Boy, did I feel dirty! And it was completely their view of my child that made me feel this way. I could only imagine what would happen had the police gotten involved! Thank goodness for a digital camera!

What do you think? Has anything like this happened to you?

Image: Orin Optiglot on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Second Image and Story: Dallas Observer.

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