Police want to create child porn in teen sexting case?

A 17-year-old allegedly sexts his 15-year-old girlfriend. The police allegedly now want to photograph his private parts to prove their case.

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Justice? CMIUC100/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

You might, once you read this story, invoke a little Pink Floyd (new album coming soon) and hum: "Lawyers, leave them kids alone."

For this is the tale of a police force and prosecutors who allegedly want to do the unspeakable in order to fight what some might describe as, well, teens being teens.

As The Washington Post reports, it all began when a 15-year-old girl allegedly sexted her 17-year-old boyfriend in Virginia. He allegedly returned the gesture by sending her a video. The girl's mother saw the video and went to police.

Jessica Harben Foster, the boy's lawyer, told the Post that her client was arrested and the Manassas City, Va., police even photographed his genitals.

Foster further claims that Clairborne Richardson, the assistant attorney for the Commonwealth Prince William County, wanted the boy to plead guilty or police would serve a warrant to obtain a picture of his erect penis.

When she asked how police intended to obtain such a thing, Foster claims she was told "we just take him down to the hospital, give him a shot and then take the pictures that we need."

The police obtained a search warrant. The case has another court date on July 15.

If, by this point, you're already thinking that someone here may not be thinking perfectly, it would be understandable.

Paul Ebert, Prince William County Commonwealth's attorney, told the Post that the police dispute Foster's version of events.

However, the boy's guardian, Carlos Flores Laboy, told the Post: "They're using a statute that was designed to protect children from being exploited in a sexual manner to take a picture of this young man in a sexually explicit manner. The irony is incredible."

He described the police's intentions as "child abuse." The intention is, allegedly, for the police to use software to match the images taken with the ones in the alleged sexting video.

I have contacted the Manassas City Police to ask for their comment on the allegations and will update, should I hear something.

This isn't, however, the first time a legal system has attempted to classify two teens sexting as child pornography.

Earlier this year, a Canadian court convicted a teen of possession and dissemination of child pornography, after the teen, a girl, had posted naked pictures of her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend online.

This all might cause some to wonder whether this behavior is criminal at all. It's not as if technology has suddenly caused teenagers to behave in questionable ways. The only difference is that now it can be much more widely disseminated.

It's true that once something is digitally transmitted, it will likely live forever, at least in some dark virtual corner. Education is, perhaps, the best way to warn teens of the dangers.

At heart, though, who benefits from a prosecution? The authorities might have you believe it's some sort of deterrent.

In the Virginia case, the girl who allegedly began the sexting has not been charged. The boy, on the other hand, risks being thrown in jail until he's 21. He may, if convicted, be put on a sexual offender list for the rest of his life.

Would this reflect a sane concept of justice? Are child pornography laws really the best way to deal with sexting?

If the defense lawyer's revelations prove true, I suspect there might be a few people who hope it's the authorities who've been caught with their trousers down.

Updated 8:24 a.m. July 10: The Manassas Police Department has issued a statement which reads, in part: "New charges of manufacturing and distributing child pornography have been brought forward and a court date is pending. It is not the policy of the Manassas City Police or the Commonwealth Attorney's Office to authorize invasive search procedures of suspects in cases of this nature and no such procedures have been conducted in this case. Beyond that, neither the Police Department nor the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office discuss evidentiary matters prior to court hearings."

 

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