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July 29, 2014

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Police to take graphic photos of teen as evidence

McLEAN, Va. — A Virginia teenager is fighting efforts by police who want to take photos of him in a sexually aroused state to try to prove a sexting case against him.

Prosecutors in Prince William County told a judge they need photos of the 17-year-old's erect penis to compare against photos he is accused of sending to his 15-year-old girlfriend at the time. The teen has been charged in juvenile court with possessing and manufacturing child pornography related to the images of himself he's accused of creating.

The teen's lawyers say the search warrant allowing the photographs has been authorized by a magistrate but not yet executed. They are fighting the warrant in court; a hearing is scheduled for next week.

Defense lawyer Jessica Foster said she is unaware of any cases where police have pursued similar photographs, particularly of a minor.

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

The teen's appointed guardian ad litem, Carlos Flores Laboy, said his understanding is that police plan to do some sort of computer analysis of the photos to try and 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. Doing it to a 17-year-old would be even worse," he said.

A guardian ad litem is an attorney appointed to serve as an advocate in certain juvenile cases.

The lawyers said police have told them they plan to obtain the photo by taking the teen to a hospital and injecting him with a chemical that would cause an erection.

The teen's aunt and legal guardian has sent the teen out of state for now so the warrant can't be executed.

"He's overwhelmed. He's scared. He doesn't want to be in Virginia" because police could theoretically show up at any time to try to execute the warrant and take the photographs, she said.

The Associated Press isn't naming the teen or his aunt in accordance with a policy of not identifying juvenile suspects.

Police have been pursuing the case since January, the aunt said, when the girlfriend's mom discovered the explicit content.

She said prosecutors insisted on getting the photographs after her nephew turned down a plea deal that would have required a year of probation in which he would be forbidden from using a cellphone or the Internet. She was concerned that a slipup 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 said her nephew has received a lot of support since the case was first reported last week on WRC-TV, the NBC affiliate in Washington.

Police and prosecutors did not return calls Wednesday afternoon seeking comment.

The Manassas City Police later posted a statement on its website saying that it is not their policy "to authorize invasive search procedures of suspects in cases of this nature and no such procedures have been conducted in this case."

The statement added that 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."

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