Teen faces 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor

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A Muscatine 18-year-old faces criminal charges after he allegedly posted explicit photos of his ex-girlfriend on the Internet.

Muscatine Police arrested Zach Morse on Tuesday, November 12, 2013.  Morse is facing 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.  One charge is a class C felony and the other 19 are class D felonies.

Police say the 17-year-old victim was video chatting online with Morse, when she proceeded to take her clothes off.  Morse took a snapshot on his phone, and later sent the picture to several people on Facebook.

Lieutenant Tim Hull of the Muscatine Police Department said there was a motive behind Morse's actions.

"A breakup happened, and I think he was upset so he sent nude photographs of the underage girl to 19 people on Facebook," Hull said.

Because the girl was a minor, Morse is facing felony charges for each person the picture was sent to.

Alan Ostergren, the Muscatine County Attorney, explained why there were so many charges.

"Essentially the law says that if you distribute the image to another person, that's chargeable separately from each time that image is transmitted to a separate person," said Ostergren.

Each felony Morse is facing is punishable up to five years in prison.

But police say nude photos and videos are becoming more of an issue with young teens.

"We're seeing a huge upsurge in people providing naked photographs of themselves to their boyfriend and then a break up happens," said Hall.

Hall added that when those breakups occur, the person who received the pictures often share them with their friends. In this case, it was reported to police.

Ostergren agrees that more of these cases are being reported.

"People can sometimes be a little too trusting when they are online and it's very easy to record things when you are online," said Ostergren.

Police recommend that parents monitor their child's online activity, the same way they would monitor anything else in their child's life.

"Take a look at their computer, realize who their friends are; and when they are going to be online, have them do it in the living room or when you will be around them," said Hull.

Because once something is posted to the web, it is there forever.