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Cop Who Obtained Warrant To Take Photo Of Teen's Erect Penis For Sexting Case Sues Teen's Lawyer For Defamation

Published: November 16, 2014
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Source: Tech Dirt

One of the more remarkable intersections of law enforcement and sexting this year involved the Manassas City (VA) police department and a 17-year-old boy's erect penis.

Briefly: two teens -- a 15-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy -- exchanged nude photos. Apparently, the boy went further, sending a nude video to the 15-year-old. The parents of the girl brought this to the police, who then sought to charge the 17-year-old with "possession of child pornography and manufacturing child pornography," mainly because the law remains mostly "a ass" when it comes to teens sexting.

In order to secure proof that the penis in the offending video actually belonged to the teen being charged, police obtained a search warrant to manufacture child pornography chemically induce an erection and take a photo of the suspect's erect penis. This bizarre action was prompted by the teen's refusal to plead guilty. And was taken despite the fact that police already had taken photos of his non-erect penis during his post-arrest detainment at the juvenile jail.

This strange tactic was criticized publicly by the teen's lawyer, Jessica Foster, in an interview with the Washington Post, in which she specifically complained about Detective David Abbott:

Foster said Detective Abbott told her that after obtaining photos of the teen’s erect penis he would ‘use special software to compare pictures of this penis to this penis. Who does this? It’s just crazy.'
This, of course, was only one of hundreds of similar reactions, most of which also arrived at the same conclusion: inducing an erection in a teen suspect and taking pictures of it is "crazy." But only one person is being sued (so far) for expressing their opinion of Det. Abbott and his warrant.
The lead detective in a high-profile teen “sexting” case from last summer, in which Prince William County authorities sought to take sexually explicit photos of a 17-year-old teen to compare with the evidence, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the teen’s attorney for making critical comments about the investigation in The Washington Post. [...]

Abbott’s lawsuit claims that Foster’s comment “materially misstates Abbott’s discussions with Foster,” and that claiming such an investigative approach was “crazy” in turn “asserts unfitness to perform the duties of his office or employment, with a direct intention to bring Abbott under scrutiny from the media and from the public.”
Abbott's lawsuit is at least as ridiculous as the police activity that inadvertently prompted it. Foster's lawyers have already filed a response pointing out that the statement is not defamatory and is "constitutionally protected opinion and rhetorical hyperbole."

Even Abbott's own department isn't interested in backing this lawsuit.
Manassas City Police Chief Douglas Keen said Abbott filed the suit independently and did not consult him, and Keen said he had no position on the civil case.
The department, however, still backs the decision to create child porn in order to charge someone else with child porn creation and distribution. A close look at its statement indicatesthat there's a bit of post-debacle blame-shifting going on, leaving the attorney's office holding the "teen penis photo" bag.
In the sexting case that has recently garnered so much attention, the investigating detective with the Manassas City Police Department was instructed by a member of the Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Office to obtain a search warrant in order to photograph, for evidentiary purposes, the genitalia of the defendant. Upon consultation with the identification expert, the prosecutor subsequently authorized a second search warrant seeking a photograph of the erect penis of the defendant...

Many have expressed concern at what they believe to be an extreme measure in this type of case. However, when a criminal defendant, adult or juvenile, decides to exercise his or her right to a trial, it is necessary for the prosecution to explore all legal avenues of evidence collection in order to prepare for trial…
What Abbott seems to object to most (beyond being called "crazy") is Foster's insinuation that this erect penis photography session was all hisidea.
"This statement implies that Abbott conceived of the idea, that he desired to obtain the photographs, that he would take actual photographs, and that he would personally execute the comparison.”
Abbott may resent this implication, but as Scott Greenfield points out, the detective did nothing to head off this regrettable warrant application, no matter whoactually ordered it.
Just following orders, eh? The old Nuremberg defense. Yeah, that’s persuasive. Of course, it was Abbott’s name on the warrant, and at no time did Abbott say or do anything to suggest he wasn’t all-in on the dick pics. Indeed, until news of this outrage went public, there was always the possibility he could get a medal for his bravery and a photo of his own in the local papers for “hero cop convicts saves society from sexting teen by erect penis comparison.” So proud…

Detective Abbott, if you don’t want the world to think you’re some sick, disgusting pervert, don’t be one.
Finally, the lawsuit notes that Abbott has suffered immensely since the story blew up back in July, listing all of the following:
“intense media and public scrutiny, embarrassment, shame…injury to his reputation as a law enforcement official…hundreds of emails that included pornographic or threatening material…telephone calls threatening death or other actions...” [...] “severe emotional distress…which resulted in counseling with a psychologist and the need for medication.”
Well, I can only imagine what a second wave of coverage centering on Abbott's involvement with the production of photos of teen's erect penis is going to do to him. The media had long since moved on from this story, but Abbott's decision to pursue a shaky defamation suit has just reset the clock.

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