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Case Dismissed Against Girl who had Consensual Sex

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Calling it "absurd," the Utah Supreme Court dismissed a case against a 13-year-old girl who was found guilty of sex abuse in Juvenile Court after having consensual sex with a 12-year-old boy and becoming pregnant.

The court said authorities had no power to prosecute the youngsters as victims and perpetrators of the same "reckless" act.

"The Legislature could not have intended the child sex abuse statute to be applied to punish Z.C. for the conduct at issue," the court said Tuesday, referring to the girl by initials.

In 2004, in 2nd District Juvenile Court, the Weber County girl pleaded guilty to the adult equivalent of a second-degree felony with a pledge that she would appeal. The boy pleaded guilty but did not appeal.

Judge J. Mark Andrus ordered her to obey her parents, write an essay about the effect of her actions on her newborn, provide a DNA sample and pay a $75 DNA processing fee.

While the punishment was "relatively light," the Supreme Court said "no amount of judicial lenity to compensate for the absurd application of the law changes the fact that the application of the law was absurd to begin with."

"Moreover, labeling Z.C. with the moniker of 'child abuser,' even within the Juvenile Court system, can have serious consequences," the court said, noting that the punishment for future crimes can be enhanced by a past record.

Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria said he would not comment Tuesday because he had not read the ruling.

The girl's attorney, Randall Richards, said prosecutors had other options in Juvenile Court, including a charge of fornication, a misdemeanor. "Absurd is the best word," he said.

"We have a pregnant 13-year-old. For heaven's sake, she has the weight of the world on her shoulders and they file a felony offense against her?" Richards said. "Children shouldn't have sex but it happens," he said. "How that translates into rape of a child is beyond me. It isn't the only case that has happened like this in the county."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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