Stepmom Hit With Criminal Charges After Stepkids Saw Her Topless in Their Home

Tilli Buchanan

Tilli Buchanan of Salt Lake City, Utah, is fighting criminal charges after her stepchildren allegedly saw her topless while inside their home. The case could force Buchanan to register as a sex offender, but her lawyers are working hard to prove that the state law she allegedly broke is a double standard.

  • Buchanan appeared in court Tuesday to defend herself against three misdemeanor counts of lewdness involving a child.

    Tilli Buchanan

    The stepmom allegedly violated a state lewdness statute, which forbids women to show their breasts in private in certain situations, according to the Washington Post. In court, however, Buchanan's lawyers argued that the statute is unconstitutional, because it unfairly penalizes women and not men. 

    Buchanan's lawyers also cited a ruling made by a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in February that overturned a topless ban in Colorado because it discriminates against women.

    “It’s problematic to bring in all the consequences of criminality simply based on our feelings about how a woman should be and how a man should be,” explained Leah Farrell, a lawyer at the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah.

    If Buchanan is convicted, she could face up to 364 days in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500. She would also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

    “It was in the privacy of my own home," she said after the hearing. "My husband was right next to me in the same exact manner that I was, and he’s not being prosecuted."

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  • The problem started when Buchanan and her husband spent an afternoon putting up drywall in their garage.

    Tilli Buchanan

    Buchanan, 27, explained that after getting dirty while doing the repair to their West Valley City home, she and her husband decided to strip off their clothes just inside their house, according to an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. She was topless just as her stepchildren came running down the stairs. It seemed as if the children were embarrassed about seeing her in the buff, she recalled, but she told them there was no reason to be uncomfortable. 

    “This isn’t a sexual thing,” she recalled telling the children. “I should be able to wear exactly what my husband wears. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about this.”

    Buchana has three stepchildren -- a 13-year-old boy, a 10-year-old girl, and a 9-year-old boy, according to People.

    The Washington Post reported that Buchanan's lawyers explained to the court Tuesday that “she considers herself a feminist and wanted to make a point that everybody should be fine with walking around their house or elsewhere with skin showing." 

  • But prosecutors have presented a very different version of events ...

    In fact, theirs is so different that Buchanan and the prosecution can't even agree on when the incident happened. According to Buchanan, it happened in fall 2016, but the prosecution pegged the time frame between November 2017 and January 2018.

    In their version of events, prosecutors claimed that Buchanan had drunkenly commented that she should be allowed to take off her shirt if her husband was allowed to, and then took off her clothes. They continued that Buchanan refused to put her clothes back on and told her husband that she would only do so if he showed her his penis.

  • It was the children's mother who initially reported the troubling incident.

    The children's mother had mentioned the incident during an unrelated investigation with the Division of Child and Family Services, according to People. The mom claimed to be "alarmed" with what was happening to her children, and investigators took it from there.

    Meanwhile, Buchanan told the Salt Lake Tribune that she hadn't even thought about the incident until police called her to investigate. In February, a few weeks after that call, she was charged.

    “I was devastated,” Buchanan admitted. “Because the moment I took to teach the kids, it was kind of smashed. Like you can’t teach kids this. In fact, you’re going to be charged for even bringing this up.”

    “If we lose this, she’s on the sex offender registry with child rapists and things of that nature,” her lawyer Randy Richards explained to CBS News. “The magnitude of the penalty on this is enormous.”

    Meanwhile, Buchanan's husband has not been charged. 

    “In the statute, there’s one part of it that says this part of a woman is found inherently obscene and this part of a man isn’t,” the ACLU lawyer argued in court. “That really sets up an unequal and unfair dichotomy. And Tilli’s case is something none of us would expect to happen to us.”

    The judge has yet to deliver a verdict, but she said a written ruling will be released in two months.

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