Police Drop Plan to Take Graphic Photos of Va. Teen as Evidence in Sexting Case

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The aunt of a teenager accused of child pornography for sexting a girl he says was his girlfriend appeared on MSNBC Thursday night to defend the boy. News4's Shomari Stone reports. (Published Thursday, Jul 10, 2014)

    Police say that they will no longer be pursuing efforts to take sexually explicit photos of a Virginia teen accused in a sexting case.

    Prosecutors in Prince William County had told a judge they needed nude photos of Trey Sims, 17, in an aroused state, to compare against photos he allegedly sent to his then-girlfriend, who was 15 at the time, said lawyers for Sims.

    Manassas Backs Off "Invasive" Search Warrant

    [DC] Manassas Backs Off "Invasive" Search Warrant
    Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter David Culver talks with the family of a teen charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography, for sexting to his then-girlfriend. (Published Thursday, Jul 10, 2014)

    Patty Prince, a spokesperson for the city of Manassas, confirmed Thursday afternoon that the search warrant will not be executed.

    Va. Teen Could be Jailed for "Sexting" Girlfriend

    [DC] Va. Teen Could be Jailed for "Sexting" Girlfriend
    A Virginia teen could be jailed for "sexting" with his girlfriend, and even be forced to register as a sex offender. News4's Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter David Culver has the story. (Published Thursday, Jul 10, 2014)

    "When I found out about it, we determined we would not proceed," said Manassas City Police Chief Douglas W. Keen.

    Earlier Thursday, Manassas police said it's not their policy to "authorize invasive search procedures of suspects in cases of this nature," and that no such procedures had been conducted in the case.

    However, the teen's aunt and legal guardian, Stacy Bigley, told News4 that police had already taken nude photographs of the teen in an unaroused condition -- a claim that Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert disputed.

    "The allegations lack credibility," Ebert said.

    Bigley insisted again Thursday night on MSNBC that the pictures were taken.

    She said she's still worried because her nephew is still facing two felony charges for manufacturing and possessing child pornography.

    Back in January, Sims was charged in juvenile court after he was allegedly caught sexting his girlfriend. Police were contacted by the mother of the 15-year-old girl "who was sent pornographic videos" by the 17-year-old "after repeatedly being told to stop," police said.

    Manassas City Police said Thursday that the decision to move forward with charges stands with the attorney's office and not police.

    Sims' lawyers said police had told them they planned to obtain a photo of the teen in an aroused state by taking him to a hospital, and injecting him with a chemical that would cause an erection.

    The teen's lawyers said the search warrant allowing the photographs to be taken had been signed off by a magistrate. It will now be allowed to expire.

    In a hearing scheduled for July 15, defense attorney Jessica Foster will request that photos allegedly already taken of Sims not be admitted as evidence.

    Bigley spoke with News4 last week about the incident. Although he is only 17, the teen's family decided to speak with News4 to make his story known.

    Trey was in the room during the interview but didn't speak because the investigation is ongoing.

    "He said they took him to a room and took pictures of his genitalia," Bigley said. "I asked if they’re allowed to do that, and [Trey] said, 'I tried to refuse,' which he did, he didn’t want to do it -- they told him if he did not, they would do it by force."

    The teen's appointed guardian ad litem, Carlos Flores Laboy, said police plan to do some sort of computer analysis of the photos to try to prove a similarity to the explicit photo found on the girl's phone.

    He said the search warrant vividly demonstrates the importance of defending individuals' constitutional rights against invasions of privacy.

    "Doing this to an adult would be traumatic. We're talking about a 17-year-old child," Laboy said. "Doing it to a 17-year-old would be even worse."

    “I think it’s effectively child abuse, that’s what it is from my perspective," he said.

    Foster said she is unaware of any cases where police have pursued similar photographs, particularly of a minor. She plans to fight the charges and is questioning why her client is the only minor in the case facing charges.

    "This is crazy,'' said Foster. "Nobody's even heard of something like this. ...The charges are excessive, and the means by which they are seeking evidence are outrageous.''

    Bigley said prosecutors insisted on getting the photographs after her nephew turned down a plea deal that would have required a year of probation, during which he would be forbidden from using a cellphone or the Internet, according to the Associated Press.

    She was concerned that a slip-up on probation -- even a single use of a social media account like Facebook or Twitter -- would leave him exposed to a felony record and a requirement to register as a sex offender.

    She says Sims has received a lot of support since the case was first reported last week on News4.

    Sims is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 1. He could be forced to register as a sex offender and spend time in jail again.

    Both the city of Manassas police department and the Commonwealth's Attorney for Prince William County declined to comment further to News4 on the case.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.