But police and social workers launched a full-blown sex abuse investigation, raiding the couple's home and putting the girls in protective custody for a month while they interviewed dozens of family members and friends about whether the Demarees were child sex offenders.
When authorities declined to bring charges - judges who reviewed the pictures found they were, in fact, harmless family photos - the couple sued two Child Protective Services employees, among others, alleging constitutional violations. On Tuesday Wednesday NZ Time , after a series of defeats in the case, a federal appeals court affirmed what the Demarees have argued all along: The decision, which came nearly 10 years after the parents' initial encounter with police, revived the case against the two social workers after a lower court dismissed it in That court ruled that the social workers, as employees of the Arizona government, were entitled to "qualified immunity," meaning they were protected from liability in lawsuits arising from their professional duties.
Ad Feedback But the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit panel disagreed, ruling that the social workers presented no evidence that the children were at risk of sexual abuse. The detective settled with the parents and the other parties were dismissed during earlier proceedings. A shocking amount of child pornography changes hands every day in the dark corners of the internet and whatever other channels paedophiles use to traffic sexually exploitative images of minors, as evidenced by the steady drum beat of arrests and sting operations by law enforcement.
As the FBI wrote in a memo last year, "Rarely a week goes by in the United States that a child pornographer is not charged or sentenced for federal crimes related to the sexual exploitation of children.
For obvious reasons, authorities take a zero-tolerance approach. The drawback, of course, is that people like Lisa and AJ Demaree get caught up in the dragnet. Lisa Belkin, a former New York Times parenting blogger, wrote of the couple's case: One showed the three girls lying on a towel with their bare backsides showing.
The 9th Circuit noted that neither that picture nor any other portrayed the children in a sexually suggestive manner or showed their genitalia frontally. After questioning the parents, police took the children in for interviews and medical exams to look for signs of sexual abuse.
While the exams were being conducted, they got a search warrant and raided the couple's home, seizing computers, cellphones, undeveloped film and other materials relevant to a child pornography probe, the court wrote.
I started to hyperventilate. I tried to breathe it out. But toward the end of the search of the couple's house, the Child Protective Services workers showed up and discussed the case with police. One of the workers, anticipating child exploitation charges to be brought, decided to take the children into emergency temporary custody.
Though she lacked a court order or warrant, her supervisor signed off on the decision. The two older children were driven to one foster home, the month-old to another, according to court documents. Eventually, they were moved to their grandparents' house. Police interviewed about three dozen friends, family members and co-workers of the Demarees in the course of their sex-abuse investigation, according to the lawsuit.
The parents were not arrested nor charged with any crimes, and a juvenile court never adjudicated the girls abused or neglected, as the appeals court ruling stated. But Lisa was suspended from her job at a school for a year, and the couple's names were included on a sex offender registry, as ABC News reported.