Manassas Police Refuse To Execute Warrant To Photograph Teen’s Erect Penis

94px-Manassas_Police_BadgePaul EbertIn a clear victory for both the public and basic notions of decency, the Manassas City Police have announced that they will not execute the abusive warrant discussed yesterday to force a 17-year-old boy to be photographed with an erect penis — including the authority to force an erection with the administration of drugs if the boy did not “cooperate.” However, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne Richardson is still pursing the teen for two major felonies for sending his 15-year-old girlfriend an explicit video. There is still no word from Paul B. Ebert, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County (right).

As we discussed yesterday, Richardson charged the teen with manufacturing and distributing child pornography. The girlfriend sent him pictures earlier but she is not being charged. The girlfriend’s mother called police and insists that he was repeatedly told to stop sending the images. Detective David E. Abbott, the lead investigator on the case, has refused to return calls. However, the case began with the girlfriend, not the defendant, sending photos of herself to the boy. Yet, she has not be charged. Instead, he was served with petitions from juvenile court in early February, but not arrested. The case however was dismissed due to an error by prosecutors. They then however obtained new charges and a search warrant. They then arrested him and secured this absurd warrant. The defense attorney says that Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne Richardson told her that her client must either plead guilty or police would obtain another search warrant “for pictures of his erect penis.” If that is the case, this is even more serious since it sounds like this abusive warrant was used to try to pressure a plea. Richardson then appeared in court to try to stop the teen from traveling until he submitted to the degrading photographs.

The teen is now set for a trial on July 15th but the police were inundated with angry complaints by the public from around the world. The boy had already been forced to be photographed in the nude including his genitals but Richardson demanded that he either plead guilty or go through the added trauma of being forced to have an erection and then photographed.

The police department issued a statement that “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.” That still leaves the question of Richardson’s insistence that the teen be forced to do precisely what both the police and prosecutors say is outside of their policy. There was virtually no value to the pictures given the facts of this case beyond tormenting this teenager. It is not just unprofessional and potentially unethical (if used just to force a plea) but downright creepy. Had the public not reacted to this abuse, this grotesque scene would have unfolded as planned by Richardson (who objected to the boy leaving the state with family before he was forced through this procedure).

While Clairborne Richardson has been listed as the lead prosecutor in this case, once again, Paul Ebert clearly deserves much of the criticism for failing to properly supervise his subordinate and his silence in the matter is deafening. I have previously criticized Ebert for his lack of prosecutorial discretion in the Kevin Kelly case.

The entire heavy-handed prosecution of this teenager should be reexamined and dropped in favor of noncriminal actions. Moreover, if the reported facts are proven true, Richardson’s continuation as a prosecutor needs to be reviewed. Unfortunately, prosecutorial abuse is something that we have routinely encountered. It is a problem because prosecutors are rarely punished. However, this abuse involved a minor and justifiably brought the entire office into disrepute. There must also be a review of the magistrate who signed this abusive warrant which now even the police will not execute. The conduct of the prosecutors and the magistrate strike me as a far greater menace than these two kids sending each other explicit pictures and videos. Indeed, the lack of any response thus far from Ebert should again cause Prince William voters to examine his role and failure to exercise a modicum of control over his prosecutors.

Source: ABA Journal

68 thoughts on “Manassas Police Refuse To Execute Warrant To Photograph Teen’s Erect Penis”

  1. @Randykat, just as there is prosecutorial discretion, there is police discretion. Each stage of the criminal justice system provides a way for improper stuff like this to be aborted, by those who ALL swear an oath, first and foremost, to uphold and to defend the Constitution of the United States and (in this case) the Commonwealth of Virginia. Each person not only has the right, but the duty to refuse such obviously abusive behavior. For the record, as in this case, judges will rarely create a search (or many other types of warrants) de novo; they are typically requested by the police powers or in this case by the District Attorney, and then the judge simply approves (or doesn’t – but it’s a rubber stamp in most cases) the warrant that was requested. That is the real reason why search warrants are almost always faithfully executed. While the arrest warrants a judge may issue (for example: for FTA) can languish forever, until the police “get around to it”, or they happen to accidentally trip over the person in question.
    A warrant is not a commandment from God, and it is usually judges who get confused with that role.

    1. I hope that you will grant Obama the same kind of discretion that you grant to cops in enforcing warrants then. As CiC, he has sole discretion and control over POWs as to how they are taken and released. THAT is part of the US Constitution too, and is far better enshrined in law and practice than cops ignoring search and arrest warrants.

      1. Yes he does, but just as I don’t have to approve of any police abuse of discretion, I don’t have to approve of Mr.Obama’s actions either. I have nothing against him as a man, don’t believe the lies promulgated about him, but I do believe he has abused his discretion, claimed executive power he is not entitled to, and made (or continued the Bush) mockery of our Bill of Rights. I am sure Hitler started out with the best of intentions – just as Obama did. It’s the follow through of each that’s a problem

        1. wrxdave, So from your comment I would think that you would demand the cops execute this abusive warrant. That would show a lack of common sense and more concern for the letter of the law than justice. I have on occasion violated the letter of the laws and regulations, but I always did it as long as I could stand before a jury and defend my actions on the grounds of observing the spirit of the law rather than the letter.

          The fact is that any violations Obama has made of the Bill of Rights is either not true, or is of such piddling importance and scope so as to make critics nitpickers. There have been FAR worse violations of the US Constitution in our past which did not result in a dictatorship. The grand champ of gross violations of Constitutional law is Abe LIncoln during the Civil War. He makes Nixon look like a libertarian. Then we have Wilson who ran the Red Scare and Palmer raids which jailed US citizens only for their political opinions and writings. Think that thousands of Tea Party folks are sitting in prison now like Wilson did? Think that Obama will be deporting hundreds of US citizens as Wilson did? The McCarthy era certainly established the US as an authoritarian police state in which the Constitution functionally did not exist for the Bill of Rights. Think that Obama has reached that point?

          As for your contention Hitler is similar or started out with good intentions, that is one of the more ignorant statements I have seen in awhile. Try reading Mein Kampf to see his intentions. The Nazis had no pretense of democratic functioning or desire to have even limited rights. Since this is a legal blog, I can understand the desire of lawyers to have strict adherence to the law. It is also good that Prof Turley and others raise these questions and they have merit. The reason I like them doing so is so that we do not wind up like we did in the past with Lincoln, Wilson, and Eisenhower, and Truman.

          I have seen what happens when such concerns are not taken seriously enough and in the worst case scenario, a society can descend into the hell of the Stalinist Soviet Union. Stalin did not set out to be a monster, but with no restraints or opposition he became one. As Churchill once said. The second worst misfortune for the Russians was Lenin’s birth. Their worst misfortune was his death. While I disagree with much of that, he does make the point that Lenin had no intent or ability to become a Stalin. So while the law and upholding it is very important, it is not the sole determinant in whether or not a society keeps its freedom. It is often as in Lincoln’ case the intent and desire of the man as President. Any other man could have remolded the US in a far different way at that time.

          1. We are not as far apart as you would like to believe I think. I have read Mein Kampf – from cover to cover – and, if you actually entertain the thought that he believed as he believed, then he did what he did to try and create the ultimate German/Aryan state that would stand for a thousand years, nationalistic and warped sure, monster – absolutely. But he still did what he did believing that what he did would be the best thing (long term) for the German People – ergo, the best of intentions.
            As for Lincoln, I agree that he was among the worst, but he still didn’t create concentration camps for thousands of innocent US Citizens as Roosevelt did.
            I do not think that ANY violation of the Constitution or Bill of Rights, by any president – past or present – can or should be described as “Piddling” – that is perhaps one of the most ignorant statements I have read. But what would I know @Randyjet, I’m just a man who by your words is suffering from a bit of a Napoleon Complex (a comment I still giggle about, as do those who actually know me).
            No, I do not think that Obama will turn into a dictator, any more than I believe that he was born in Kenya or is a Muslim; however when I see the mechanisms, tools, quasi legal authority and the precedence set in place that would enable a future president, one who was rather more intent on power, to easily and justifiably take steps towards dictatorship or even simply for significant loss of Liberty – then I am justifiably concerned. As you should be as well. Then again, the vast majority of “Good Germans” were in favor of Chancellor Hitler’s actions, believing that any violations that he was making of their constitution was simple non-existent or “piddling”. After all, they all believed that he was building a better Germany, that Eugenics would actually improve the Aryan Race, that those who were disappearing were obviously guilty of something or were simply being resettled.
            If an American President does take serious strides towards dictatorship, it will be using many of the tools that are now in place, it will likely be with the support of most “Good Americans” and will likely be couched in terms – just as was in Mein Kampf – of preserving our country and “way of life”, and I guarantee that it will be “for the good of the children”. And most Americans (since most have no familiarity with the Constitution or the bill of Rights) will gladly fall in line behind him, believing in American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, One Nation under a Christian God, etcetera. I am sure they can save you place at the head of the line, carrying the banner.
            The Constitution and the Bill of Rights – by definition ARE the very letter of the law. Which every loyalty oath in the country (&which I have taken), call upon the Oath Taker to swear to “Defend Against All Enemies, Foreign or Domestic. No where in that oath is there an exception clause, like “unless your the president” (unless you believe as Nixon stated, and Obama apparently does :”When the President does it, it’s not illegal”.
            I can agree to disagree – I will never claim to be “A Good American”, willing to march in lockstep behind every presidential or even congressional action.
            We have a “Highest Law of the Land” and I adhere to its letter and expect my government to as well. Expediency be damned.
            Obama did not start this march toward totalitarianism, that, as you mentioned, was started long ago by others, Bush Jr. took giant strides toward it, with Obama only following and expanding on his precedents.
            I believed “Yes we Can” the first time around, but actions speak louder than slogans, and I did not repeat my mistake.
            I have been on the receiving end of the police run amok, with zero regard for truth or justice. Perhaps if you had as well, you would not be as nonchalant about giving away your precious “piddling” rights.
            I don’t think Obama is the only guilty one here, Congress has largely abdicated its responsibilities, and SCOTUS has made decisions that are destroying (have destroyed) our Representative Democracy.
            Yes, this is a legal blog, read by attorneys and others in the law profession – and your comment that they are thus more concerned with the letter of the law, to me simply indicates that you don’t truly know or hang out with many attorneys of any ilk.
            I have no wish to continue this debate with you, you have clearly made your point – as have I.

            I am sure you will engage in a parting shot, probably laced with more personal insults; meh…

            I am capable of agreeing to disagree, for the one right missing from the Bill of Rights was the Right for every American to be wrong. In this case you don’t think you’re wrong – I do.


  2. @Tim,

    The minor appears to have been charged under a petition seeking a finding of delinquency (as apposed to having been charged as an adult via a criminal complaint followed by an indictment or information). With very few exceptions those in juvenile court are not entitled to a trial by jury. While the juvenile courts use the same criminal statutes as adult courts to form the allegations against “respondents” (defendants), the procedure is more a hybrid form of civil procedure. In theory this is done to protect the minor respondent (the defendant), but it also means that the case will not be heard by a jury. Hopefully the judge isn’t in the bag for the State.

  3. Wouldn’t it have been a violation of medical ethics for any health professional to assist in the execution of this warrant? I know we have seen stories of doctors participating in abusive body cavity searches, but I doubt that would be the norm. Involuntarily forcing an erection on an underage boy, I would hope, would cross the line even for the doctors OK with involuntary searches.

    Do any medical professionals on here have any thoughts on this?

  4. The whole thing will be acquitted and rejected by the jury. This whole fiasco will prove to be a waste, again, of tax payer money.

  5. In our state a person cannot be both a victim and a suspect in the same crime, I don’t recall name of the decision but there are several.

    Here child pornography is where the boy is a victim (by definition with child pornography) but he is also made a suspect by allegedly photographing himself.

    I wonder if such case law is applicable in Virginia.

  6. Virginia police will likely harrass this teen (for life) using taxpayer dollars. As I understand it, in Virginia he will be treated the same as a criminal pedophile likely for life. Virginia supposedly operates an “unofficial” shadow system where they never officially inform the so-called “criminal” that they are on the list.

    Police sometimes forget that in addition to the “letter” of the law, there is also a “spirit” of the law (intent of the statute).

    1. Jack Spin, I have deleted various comments in violation of our civility rule. We have had trolls appearing under false alias and we are closely watching this section for a return of such adolescent attacks. Please conform to our civility rule or move on to another site.

  7. So the prosecution thinks it can compel a minor to expose himself and be photographed nude?

    Who keeps the negatives?

  8. randyjet, It’s about time that people think about the orders they are given. Do these cops really have a duty to execute a warrant that has them creating kiddy porn?

    1. bettykath, The cops are supposed to and to my understanding MUST enforce warrants issued by a judge. Think that if a judge issues an arrest warrant, the cops can simply refuse because they think the person is innocent or a friend? Or the cops can refuse to serve a search warrant if they so choose? While I am glad the cops used some common sense, legally the must obey the order. Now if the judge wants to pull an Andrew Jackson, I suppose he could get what he wants, but I think that he has a bit more sense than that, or maybe not since he issued it in the first place. In any case, my remark is aimed at those who applaud those who break the letter of the law, yet simply attack Obama for supposedly doing the same, especially in the case of the Gitmo POWs. One standard should apply to police and President for these critics. Of course, most have proved they have no standards when it comes to attacking Obama.

  9. He can take solace in the fact that Muslims love him. He polls poorly[recent Gallup] w/ several religions, but his strongest demographic is 72% support by Muslims.
    Nick Spinelli
    JT is hitting home runs and the Lilliputians are taking shots. Perfect.


  10. What is a Lilliputian? I have heard of Lillipudlians– something to do with midgets in England who live by the sea.

  11. JT is hitting home runs and the Lilliputians are taking shots. Perfect.

  12. Too bad Prof Turley has a double standard for those who have enforcement authority such as police and Presidents. I agree with the police in this matter since it is obvious that such an abusive warrant is wrong, BUT the JUDGE does have the right and the police have the DUTY to execute it. Thus if you can blast Obama for not following some provisions of laws that impinge on his executive authority such as control over the US military and POWs, then you are being a hypocrite by defending these cops. Too bad that common sense is allowed for cops, but not Obama.

  13. Annie
    Isn’t it?
    It applies to just about anything we adults use. Be it guns, cars, alcohol, or sexting toys. 🙂

  14. The cops have come to realize that it is more ethically reprehensible to take pics of the boy’s penis than the boy sending a pic of his own penis to his girlfriend of nearly 2 years. And, to carry on with charging him with child pornography is still taking a false, ethical position that says ruining his life is morally superior to him sending a pic of his penis to his girlfriend. The statute is being exploited and the ones exploiting it are grossly undereducated and just plain idiots.

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