Dallas Cop Arrested on Controversial Revenge Porn Charges

A Dallas cop was arrested on revenge porn charges in Tarrant County on Thursday.
A 32-year-old Dallas Police Department senior corporal has been arrested on revenge porn charges, DPD announced in a brief statement Thursday. Tarrant County authorities have charged Alexander Cleland with Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material, a Class A misdemeanor.

Cleland turned himself in to Tarrant County officials in Keller on Wednesday. As of Thursday evening, he remained in Tarrant County Jail on $750 bond. He is on administrative leave from the DPD.
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Tarrant County Sheriff's Department

Texas' revenge porn statute, S.B. 1135, forbids anyone from distributing images or video showing "a person's intimate parts exposed" or engaging in sexual contact without the person being depicted's knowledge or consent. A conviction under the law is punishable by up to a year in jail and $4,000 fine.

Tarrant County officials did not respond to a request for more information about the charges against Cleland, who was assigned to the Northwest Patrol Division, or his arrest.

Since it became law in 2015, S.B. 1135 has been subject to several challenges from free speech advocates. In April, East Texas' 12th Court of Appeals ruled that the law violated the First Amendment in response to a challenge filed by an East Texas man arrested on revenge porn charges.

"We have concluded that Section 21.16(b) [of the Texas Criminal Code] is an invalid content-based restriction and overbroad in the sense that it violates rights of too many third parties by restricting more speech than the Constitution permits," the court wrote in its opinion. "Accordingly, we hold that Texas Penal Code, Section 21.16(b), to the extent it proscribes the disclosure of visual material, is unconstitutional on its face in violation of the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment."

The 12th Court of Appeals' decision applies only to the 17 counties in East Texas over which it has jurisdiction. Tarrant County appeals are handled by the state's 2nd Court of Appeals. 

Chad Ruback, a Dallas attorney who specializes in appellate cases, says the 12th Court decision could have a big effect on Cleland's case, provided he does not take a plea deal.

"If the officer in this case agrees to a plea deal, the decision of the Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals would almost certainly be irrelevant to his case. On the other hand, if the officer does not agree to a plea deal, he could request that the trial court judge follow the 12th Court of Appeals' decision and dismiss the case," Ruback says. "However, just like the district attorney, the trial court judge is not required to follow the out-of-area court of appeals' decision. If the trial court judge does not dismiss the case and the officer proceeds to trial and is convicted, he could appeal the conviction to the Fort Worth-based 2nd Court of Appeals."

If the case were to be appealed to the 2nd Court of Appeals, and the 2nd Court were to find the law constitutional, the officer would have grounds to appeal to Texas' highest criminal court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Ruback says.

"Then, the Court of Criminal Appeals could decide how the law should be applied statewide," he says.