Chicago Blackhawks prospect Garret Ross will not be prosecuted on a charge of non-consensual dissemination of sexual images in Illinois because the alleged crime occurred in another state. A spokeswoman for the DeKalb County state’s attorney announced that the charges had been dropped Tuesday, per Stacy St. Clair of the Chicago Tribune.
Authorities in DeKalb County had charged Ross, a 23-year-old forward, in February, but he was in Michigan at the time of the alleged crime. While he may reside in the state of Illinois, criminal charges are always prosecuted in the state they're committed in. Illinois has one of the toughest revenge porn laws in the entirety of the United States. Michigan, on the other hand, has yet to institute one.
Ross played with Chicago's AHL club, the Rockford IceHogs, until last week, when the Blackhawks suspended him from the organization "pending the outcome of the legal process." He was charged on Feb. 2 and turned himself in to police Feb. 4, at which point he was released on bond and given permission to travel out of state with the team. Another player was also mentioned in the police report, which was obtained by 13 WREX in Rockford, but there was a lack of evidence to bring charges against him.
Given that Ross was charged in early February following a four-month investigation stemming from a complaint originally made in September, the news brought up questions regarding that timeline and when exactly the team found out about the situation. Ross continued playing for several weeks until the team acted once word began to spread about the news.
Illinois' revenge porn law, which is designed to prevent former romantic partners from sharing images that had previously been assumed to be personal and private, went into effect June 1, 2015. While Michigan has passed a law stating that there's "a two-year felony and/or a $5,000 fine for posting a message on the Internet without the consent of another party," the more recent Illinois law provides for harsher penalties.
It's a Class 4 felony punishable by one to three years in prison, a possible $25,000 fine and restitution to victims for costs incurred.
Ross could still be charged with a misdemeanor in Michigan but would not be facing the same kind of potential punishment if convicted. He remains suspended by the Blackhawks and is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason.