In 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