John RexSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
John Rex

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

BOSTON -- The state's highest court has refused to reinstate child-pornography charges against a convicted child rapist from Chelmsford who was caught by prison officials with photos of nude boys taken from National Geographic and a nudist-colony pamphlet in his jailhouse footlocker.

In a decision issued Tuesday, the state Supreme Judicial Court ruled there was no probable cause to charge John D. Rex Jr. with seven counts of possession of child pornography because none of the images constituted a "lewd exhibition of the children's body parts" as described under the child-pornography statute.

In writing the decision, Justice Francis X. Spina wrote that "nudity alone is not enough to render a photograph lewd."

The SJC heard arguments in March from Norfolk officials about whether a lower-court judge erred in dismissing seven counts of possession-of-child-pornography indictments against Rex, an inmate at MCI-Norfolk.

In January 1996, Rex, then 23, pleaded guilty to raping two boys he met through a computer bulletin board and to disseminating pornography to them and other minors. He was sentenced to 19 to 25 years in state prison with 35 years probation after he is released. In addition, he was given a suspended sentence of 20 to 25 years that would hang over his head during his probation, according to published reports.

During a search of Rex's cell on Aug. 31, 2011, prison officials said they found an envelope containing a collection of items, including seven nude photos of young boys. The photos came from National Geographic, a sociology textbook and a nudist-colony pamphlet, according to court documents.

While a grand jury indicted Rex in 2012 on seven counts of possession of child pornography, a lower court judge dismissed the indictments, citing the arguments that nudity by itself is not pornography and that Rex's actions were protected as free speech under the First Amendment.

But Norfolk officials argued that to any reasonable person, Rex's collection of photos of young children were used to fulfill all his "deviant sexual desires," according to documents.

Spina wrote that the focal point of the photos Rex possessed was not the children's genitals. "There is nothing remotely sexual, either explicitly or implicitly, in any of the photocopies,'' Spina wrote. The photos showed children in a "non-sexual manner," he wrote.

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