Police refuse to execute warrant for photos of youth's erection in sexting case

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Updated: Criminally charged over allegations he texted an explicit video to his 15-year-old girlfriend, a 17-year-old Virginia youth is now fighting the prosecution’s effort to take photos of his erect penis for evidentiary purposes, under a warrant approved by a juvenile court judge, his lawyer says.

The unidentified defendant’s trial was set for July 1, but the Prince William County prosecutors asked for a continuance so that Manassas City police could take the photos, the Washington Post reports.

The teen’s attorney, Jessica Harbeson Foster, says the boy had already been photographed nude by police when arrested in June. But according to Foster, she was told by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne Richardson that if her client did not plead guilty, they would get another search warrant and arrange for an injection at a local hospital to obtain the erection they needed for the new photos.

However, in a written statement provided to the newspaper Wednesday night, after the article was originally published, the police department casts doubt on law enforcement’s claimed role in the case. “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,” the statement says. “Beyond that, neither the Police Department nor the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office discusses evidentiary matters prior to court hearings.”

On Thursday afternoon, Manassas City Police announced they would not pursue the warrant, the Washington Post reported. Lt. Brian Larkin said that police planned to let the search warrant, issued last week, to expire, but did not give an explanation for the decision. Foster was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

Both the police department and the city have been fielding irate calls from around the United States—and the world—since the story broke, the Associated Press reported. While the search warrant authorizing the photos had been issued, Manassas City Manager Patrick Pate said, Pate downplayed the possibility that the photos would ever have been taken.

The boy’s aunt said that she does not think that police would have reversed course had it not been for the outpouring of criticism. “They would have gotten away with this,” she said. “They were not going to back off.”

Both Foster and the youth’s guardian ad litem had been arguing against the photos.

Foster says her client has never been in trouble before, and refused to take a plea in the case, in which he is charged with felony counts of possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography. (The former charge may relate to photos his girlfriend reportedly sent to him before he sent her the video. She is not charged.) The teen has been allowed to leave the state to visit family by Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Baird, though the prosecution attempted to make the boy comply with the search warrant before leaving.

Carlos Flores Laboy serves as the youth’s court-appointed guardian in the case.

“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 told the newspaper, adding: “As a parent myself, I was floored. It’s child abuse. We’re wasting thousands of dollars and resources and man hours on a sexting case. That’s what we’re doing.”

The teen’s next court date is July 15.

Last updated at 5:14 p.m. to include information from the Associated Press.

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