- James Charles is accused of sexting minors, and people have asked why police aren’t involved.
- The beauty YouTuber acknowledged the conversations between himself and at least two minors.
- Emily D. Baker, a lawyer-turned-YouTuber, told Insider what she believes could happen legally.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Since May 2019, more than 15 men and boys have accused James Charles of sexual misconduct, ranging from allegations that the YouTube star solicited nude photos from minors to claims that he sexually harassed men in-person and through conversations on apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
Many of the allegations surfaced in TikTok videos, and Insider has not been able to independently corroborate the claims. On April 1, Charles acknowledged that screenshots of two conversations with two boys who say they’re 16 were authentic in a YouTube video called “holding myself accountable.”
James Charles said he was being “reckless” when he interacted with fans on social media.
Separately, on February 26, Charles addressed a teenager accuser named Isaiyah in a statement posted to Twitter. Charles said Isaiyah and another unnamed 16-year-old both lied about their ages and claimed to be 18. In direct messages with Insider, Isaiyah said Charles “lied in his tweet” and said his age was publicly available in his Instagram bio at the time he and Charles were messaging each other. Insider also reviewed Isaiyah’s school documentation that showed his birth date.
As the claims have unfolded across social media, people have asked if law enforcement should get involved. Insider spoke with Emily D. Baker, a lawyer-turned-YouTuber, about the legal questions surrounding the scandal.
Baker was a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles for more than 10 years and currently posts legal commentary videos about pop culture and YouTube drama on her channel, where she has close to 100,000 subscribers. She received her JD from Southwestern University School of Law and has experience with legal cases concerning sex crimes and minors.
Accusers would most likely have to work with local police to begin an investigation
Calls for Charles to be investigated by authorities have echoed across social media, even in the absence of action from most of his sponsors. Baker told Insider that it’s unlikely any law enforcement agency would initiate an investigation into Charles without an accuser coming forward to their local agency.
“You would first have to have a police investigation, a police report, and someone either coming forward and talking to the police or the police knowing someone from one of these TikToks and starting their investigation there,” Baker said. “You would need a person who is willing to hand over their TikTok to the police.”
Some of the TikTok users who have accused Charles of sexting them while they were underage wrote in comments on their posts that they were filing police reports or had been contacted by the police, but Insider has not been able to independently verify whether an investigation is active in any jurisdictions.
James Charles attends the 96.3 Mega FM Calibash 2020 at Staples Center on January 11, 2020, in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images
When investigating the accusers’ social media posts, Baker said law enforcement would need a reasonable basis to obtain a search warrant to seek evidence from the social-media companies directly involved, such as Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
Baker said the authenticated evidence from these companies could include IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers, described by Verizon as a phone’s fingerprint. Baker said these warrants could also lead companies to reveal the location images and messages were sent from.
“You can say, ‘This cell phone in this person’s hand sent this message to this account,'” Baker said. “At the end of the day, if James is going to be prosecuted for things that were being sent back and forth, you have to prove that he’s the one holding the phone. And that he’s the one sending the things, even if it’s his account.”
Social media companies can’t turn over that kind of evidence without a court warrant, Baker said, or else they could be sued. She also said the process of a police investigation starting, obtaining a warrant, and receiving authenticated evidence could take months.
Charles addressed the allegations on his YouTube channel, which Baker said could impact a future case
When Charles made his video called “holding myself accountable,” he opened the video by identifying himself. He then went on to say that the “conversations should have never happened.” Charles said he was being “reckless” by talking to his fans in pursuit of a romantic or sexual relationship.
Baker said that, if Charles were prosecuted over the sexting allegations, the statements he’s made online could be used against him in court.
Baker said Charles’ video cemented the fact that conversations with minors happened. She said that any prosecution would depend on “the content of those conversations.”
Depending on the charge, a prosecutor would have to argue that the purported messages sent between Charles and his accusers demonstrated sexual intent, sexual gratification, and a solicitation of photos from minors, Baker said. In the conversation he had with 16-year-old Isaiyah, Charles wrote that Isiayah sent him “lewd photos of himself in the shower,” and Charles said he “flirted back.” Charles didn’t elaborate on any other accusers.
Accusers could also bring civil litigation against Charles, Baker said
Baker noted that alleged criminal acts aren’t always prosecuted through criminal cases. For example, accusers could pursue a civil lawsuit for harassment and seek a financial settlement or financial reward, she said. Several of Bill Cosby’s accusers have brought forward civil litigation against him.
“Filing civil causes of action can force negotiations for a behind-the-scenes settlement,” Baker said. She also discussed reasons an accuser might not want to come forward to police, including in cases involving physical assaults and rape.
If an accuser has allegations against a public figure, Baker said that taking their story to the media may protect others from that person. Sharing allegations anonymously would also allow an accuser to avoid having a future employer see their story when Googling their name, Baker said.
She also compared the wave of accusations against social media figures to the #MeToo movement in Hollywood. Baker said there weren’t many charges that came out of the movement, which mainly focused on raising awareness.
“I think it’s a very valid choice and one people get to make. It’s not up to anyone else to decide when somebody should go to the police,” Baker said. “I understand not trusting the justice system with your trauma if your goal is to warn others and is not necessarily to put somebody in prison.”
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