Roanoke non-profit leader found not guilty of sexting charges

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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The founder of a Roanoke non-profit dedicated to addressing violence in the city has been found not guilty of charges related to sending a nude photograph to a local journalist.

A judge found Peacemakers co-founder Shawn Hunter not guilty Monday afternoon on charges of possessing obscene material for sale, harassment by computer, and modeling for obscene film/photos. All three charges were misdemeanors.

In court Monday, both sides agreed the photo was sent to the journalist. But the prosecution and defense disagreed about the intent of the photo.

"It was a picture of a penis, male genitalia. Period. Nothing more. Nothing less," said Hunter's Defense Attorney Deborah Caldwell-Bono.

Caldwell-Bono argued in court the photo wasn't obscene and was meant for someone else.

"It was accidentally sent. It is what it is. You can't make it more than that."

But the prosecution said it was a suggestive photo that could be considered harassment.

They argued Hunter had a history of making the journalist who received the photo uncomfortable. She stated a few instances where Hunter would ask her about her love life and what kind of guy she likes when she was working on a story about his organization. She also stated receiving an unwanted hug from Hunter while he divulged to her that he was getting a divorce. She also testified when she was walking to the courthouse for her job, Hunter slowed down in his car and catcalled her through the window. He allegedly asked her if she'd been going to the gym and that her "body looked fine."

In a cross-examination, Caldwell-Bono told the journalist "he paid you a compliment and went on his way."

To which the journalist responded, "catcalling is not appropriate".

"In your world, saying you look fine is not a compliment?" Calwell-Bono asked her.

The journalist maintained it wasn't appropriate and she felt uncomfortable.

Hunter denies that he acted inappropriately and said the catcalling incident never happened.

"I've always apologized to her because it was never intended to be sent to her," he said.

The journalist called the photo disgusting. "I was horrified almost burst into tears. I was in shock," she testified.

In the end, the Judge Thomas Roe Jr. said what Hunter did "was not smart. It was offensive."

However, Judge Roe Jr. said the evidence did not prove what happened was a criminal act.

"I'm going to find you not guilty of all three charges," the judge announced.

"I'm just grateful I've been vindicated and I'm going to go get on my knees and thank God," said Hunter.

In October, Roanoke City Police started investigating Hunter after a Roanoke journalist accused him of harassing her with an inappropriate picture. Hunter said the incident was a big misunderstanding.

Hunter wrote in a Facebook post in October that while at home, he was sharing "intimate photos" with a "lady friend" over text. Hunter said "technology glitched" on him and his phone froze up, causing the photo to be sent to the female reporter.

Roanoke City Police then obtained search warrants into Hunter and was able to search Hunter's electronics including two phones, a laptop, and a tablet.