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Ventura County teen victimized by AI online sexual images works to change law to offer protections

Chris Davis

A state law loophole prevents county prosecutors from taking on child sexual abuse images which meld images of juveniles with sexually explicit materials.

It was a stunning phone call for a Ventura County teenager and her family.

The call was from the FBI. Someone had used artificial intelligence technology to create child sexual abuse images which had incorporated her likeness.

"They told us about this case, and a man who was in possession of the morphed child pornography with my face on someone else's body," said Kaylin Hayman.

She might have been targeted because she was a child star, appearing in the Disney Channel TV series Just Roll With it.

It was bad enough that she was exploited, but what it made it worse was there was no way under current California law to prosecute the suspect in the case. It’s a gap in the law.

"Her face was superimposed on images of adults performing sexual acts," said Ventura County District Attorney Erik Nasarenko. "Under California law, the morphing as it's known, or adaptation of a real face placed upon sexual images is not prosecutable."

He, and two of his prosecutors, along with Kaylin Hayman went to Sacramento Tuesday to support an effort to change the law. They testified in favor of AB 1831, a proposed bill by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Berman of Menlo Park to close that gap.

Ventura County Deputy District Attorney Rikole Kelly has been working on the effort, which is co-sponsored by the D-A’s office. She says with evolving technology, the problem is escalating.

"Recent studies showed us that the computer learning models that are used to teach AI how to generate images contain thousands of identifiable live children victims, " said Kelly. She said AI is actually learning from other victims of CSAM, and victimizing them again.

Ventura County Supervising District Attorney Investigator Terry Dobrosky has been working on some of the undercover cases involving online predators. He says some of the predators know about the loophole.

"They know under current California law, it's unfortunately not a prosecutable crime," he said. In fact, he said as he worked undercover in chat rooms, predators would actually exchange information about what states they could get away with spreading the child pornography because of the legal loopholes.

In Hayman’s case, while it couldn’t be prosecuted at the county level, it could be in federal court. The Pennsylvania man behind the images was arrested after the case came to light last summer. Hayman took the stand in federal court last November to testify against the man who victimized her, and other teens.

"It was definitely nerve wracking, but I felt empowered," said Hayman. If felt good to get up there, but I unfortunately had to be in front of the man who made those images of me. I was able to say something to help get him the punishment he deserved."

The 16-year-old Ventura County girl talked to KCLU News after speaking to lawmakers in Sacramento about the proposed state laws.

The man behind the images was convicted, and potentially faces up to 40 years in federal prison when he’s sentenced in a few weeks.

The proposed state legislation is still going through the committee process, and isn’t ready for a State Assembly vote yet. But, the teen said she’s ready to continue the fight for it, in the hopes it can prevent other teens from being victimized.

"My whole life I've wanted to help make a difference, and this the start of how I'm going to," said Hayman. "There's still more work to be done to get this bill passed, but I want to do whatever I can."

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.