First Amendment

Cop sues lawyer for alleged defamation over comments about penis search warrant

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A detective in Manassas, Virginia, has filed a defamation suit against a lawyer for a teen sexting defendant who claimed prosecutors had a plan to photograph the youth’s erect penis for comparison with cellphone photos.

Detective David Abbott sued Manassas lawyer Jessica Harbeson Foster on Oct. 16, the Washington Post reports. Foster had told the Washington Post in July that her client’s genitals had been photographed at the county jail, and prosecutors planned to obtain a search warrant for photos of his erect penis if the youth did not plead guilty.

In the final paragraph of the July 9 online Post story, which was not included in the print edition, Foster said Abbott planned to use special software “to compare pictures of this penis to this penis. Who does this? It’s just crazy.”

A press release later issued by the Manassas City Police said a prosecutor had instructed Abbott to seek the genitalia search warrants. The first warrant showed that Abbott had scratched out the request for the erection photo, the Post says. The second warrant was never executed.

Abbott’s suit says Foster materially misstated their discussion in the Post article. Calling his approach crazy “asserts unfitness to perform the duties of his office or employment,” his suit claims. Abbott says the comment exposed him to intense public scrutiny, criticism and death threats. The emotional distress led him to seek counseling and to take medication, he says.

Foster’s response, filed Wednesday, asserted that her comments constituted “constitutionally protected opinion and rhetorical hyperbole.”

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