Birmingham man charged with sexual extortion


According to court documents, a 28-year-old Birmingham is charged with sexual extortion.

Franklin Brooks Gray is facing a charge of sexual extortion in connection with an incident on January 22. Franklin is accused of threatening a woman to engage in a sexual act.

His bond was placed at $10,000, and it was posted the same day he was arrested.

Last year, Gov. Kay Ivey signed a bill that added new sexual offenses into the state's criminal code. One of those offenses was "Sextortion." This is threatening communications whether it be online or another form of electronic communications to get someone to do unwanted sexual acts.

"Society changes every day," Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton said. "Every time there is a new breakthrough in social media, electronics and computers, there is always something else that someone out there is going to figure out a way to do. The legislature and the laws have to be ever-changing as well and ever-mindful as to what situations are available, what situations are being taken advantage of. Telephones with cameras in them are great, convenient items, but they can be used the wrong way. Computers are great items, but can be misused by somebody out there who wants to take advantage of some kind of personal gain."

Melea Stephens is a licensed counselor as well as on the board of the National Center of Sexual Exploitation. She said she has seen sexual extortion cases, and has seen increasing cases in middle and high school students. She said these cases can be very tough on the victim, but the victims need to know that it is not their fault.

"Initially, people blame themselves and say, "Why did I let this happen?" Stephens said. "Especially if they somewhat participated in making these images for example or whatever the case was, if they were chemically altered when it happened to them. They often blame themselves, so we have to work the false guilt and false blame on themselves, and they have to get detachment from the abuse and be able to walk through it, talk through it and feel safe in their own skin again. They have to be able to look at it objectively and realize it was not their fault and reclaim power for themselves and decide hope they want to proceed and be able to forgive and move beyond it if they want to take action."

"Anytime you threaten to hurt somebody, it is extremely serious," Anderton said. "Anytime you threaten a child with something like this, anytime you threaten another human being with something like this, something they may have gotten into or unknowingly with photographs taken and the victim does not know the photographs were ever taken. Now, they are being forced or at least threatened to do something else because of these photographs. "Anytime you threaten somebody with information like this, we have to react."

Sexual extortion is a Class B felony and is punishable by two to 20 years in prison.

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