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March 12, 2014

Charges dismissed in 'upskirting' case

Port native now faces charges of possession of child pornography

HAVERHILL — Due to last week’s decision by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts that taking photos under the skirts of women wasn’t a crime, charges against a Newburyport native who allegedly took photographs under a young girl’s skirt at a local supermarket were dismissed.

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

Stephen Hager, 38, of 15 Lawrence St., Haverhill, 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 after he allegedly stalked a 7-year-old girl at the Market Basket in Westgate Plaza 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 Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, said Hager’s case was dismissed this week as a result of last Wednesday’s decision by the SJC, which 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 SJC’s decision overruled a lower court that had upheld charges against Michael Robertson of Andover, who was arrested in August 2010 by transit police who 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.

Local lawmakers said it was important for the Legislature to move fast to close a “shocking” loophole in current laws that allowed Robertson to get away with secretly photographing up women’s skirts with his cell phone while on the MBTA.

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