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March 12, 2014

Charge dropped against city man after court rules 'upskirting' not illegal

Child porn charge replaces allegation man took photo under girl's skirt

HAVERHILL — Due to last week’s decision by a state court that taking photos under the skirts of women wasn’t a crime, charges against a Haverhill man who allegedly took photos under a young girl’s skirt at a supermarket were dismissed.

But police have since charged the man with possession of child pornography after a search of his cell phone turned up about 88,000 images, including photos taken under young girls’ dresses and downloaded images of nude young girls posed in a “lewd exhibition,” investigators said.

Stephen Hager, 38, of 15 Lawrence St., was arraigned Monday in Haverhill District Court on one count of possession of child pornography. Last year, police brought charges of so-called “upskirting” against Hager. That came after he allegedly stalked a 7-year-old girl at the Market Basket in Westgate Plaza and then slipped his cell phone under the girl’s dress and took a photograph.

Hager was charged last year with attempted indecent assault and battery on a person under 14, attempted posing of a child for a sexual act, and attempted photographing or electronic surveilling of a partially nude person.

Stephen O’Connell, a spokesman for the Essex District Attorney’s Office, said Hager’s case was dismissed this week as a result of last Wednesday’s decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. The court ruled that an Andover man broke no law when he took cell phone photos up the skirts of female passengers riding the Boston Green Line subway.

The Supreme Judicial Court decision overruled a lower court, which had upheld charges against Michael Robertson of Andover, who was arrested in August 2010 by transit police. They set up a sting after getting reports that he was using his cell phone to take photos and video up the skirts and dresses of female riders.

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