Sexting Probe Crossed the Line, Teen Says

     ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – A 19-year-old Virginia man claims a police detective forcibly procured pictures of his penis and threatened to inject him with an erection-causing drug during a sexting investigation two years ago.
     Trey Sims readily admits in a complaint filed in Alexandria Federal Court that he and his then 15-year-old girlfriend exchanged sexually explicit photographs and videos.
     However, Sims says in the May 25 complaint that he was shocked and humiliated by the lengths to which Detective David Abbott, a member of the Northern Virginia-Washington D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Claiborne Richardson went in trying to prosecute him on a felony charge of manufacturing and possession of child pornography – his own video of himself.
     Sims says during an investigation done under the direction of Richardson, Abbott had him detained without cause and then, on the very same day, obtained a search warrant authorizing the photographing of his penis and other parts of his body, to be used in comparisons to the sexts underlying the prosecution.
     According to the complaint, Abbott had Sims placed in handcuffs and taken to the Prince William County Juvenile Detention Center, where teen was taken to a locker room by the detective and two other uniformed officers and told to pull his pants down.
     “Reasonably concluding that he could not oppose the three armed, uniformed officers surrounding him. Trey reluctantly submitted,” the complaint says.
     “Once Trey had exposed himself per Det. Abbott’s demand, Det. Abbott began taking pictures of Trey’s unerect penis with his cell phone, which phone was made of materials that had moved in interstate commerce,” it continues. “As part of this effort, Det. Abbott directed Trey to use his hand to position his penis in different ways for his photographs.
     “By forcing Trey to touch and position his penis for the pictures, defendants caused Trey to be photographed as though masturbating, thereby creating child pornography.”
     Sims was arraigned on the child pornography charges and appointed both a defense attorney and a guardian ad litem.
     Shortly thereafter, Abbott told Trey’s defense counsel that he required pictures of Sims’s erect penis to compare to the sexts at the heart of the investigation.
     “Det. Abbott advised counsel that Trey could either accomplish an erection himself or Manassas police personnel would take him to a hospital to give him an erection-producing injection,” the complaint says. “The threat of an erection-producing shot was gratuitous, malicious, wanton, and willful, especially since Det. Abbott had on June 10 claimed to have an already ‘overwhelming’ body of evidence against Trey.”
     After Abbott obtained a search warrant for pictures of Sims erect penis, the teenager’s guardian ad litem moved to amend Trey’s bond to permit him to leave the state expressly to avoid service upon him of the newly obtained warrant, the complaint says.
     The court granted this motion, and seems left the state until the warrant became void.
     Sims’s flight and the story behind it gave rise to extensive news media interest and the coverage and resultant “firestorm of public protest” caused the defendants to abandon their efforts to photograph the teen’s erect penis.
     After a trial, the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court sentenced Sims to one year probation, after which the charges against him were dropped.
     But the case had one more strange twist.
     In December 2015, just months after Sims finished out his probation, Prince William, Va. police received a tip that Abbott had engaged in inappropriate contact with young boys he coached in a Washington-area travel hockey league.
     According to The Washington Post, police learned that Abbott had sent inappropriate text messages and emails to a 13-year-old boy he met through the hockey program.
     By phone and social media, Abbott had been asking the boy for sex acts for more than two years, The Post reported.
     But when police arrived at his home to arrest him, the 39-year-old detective shot and killed himself.
     In his lawsuit, Sims says the search he was subjected to “was outrageous and intolerable and offended generally accepted standards of decency and morality in that it forced a minor to expose himself for photographs of his genitals for no legitimate law enforcement or prosecutorial purpose, in disregard of well-established protections for minors.”
     He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages of claims of violations of his constitutional rights to privacy and due process, sex discrimination – a claim based on prosecutors decision to prosecute him, but not his then-girlfriend forced production of child pornography, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     Sims’s attorney, Victor Glasberg, told Courthouse News that while human beings have a capacity to bounce back from humiliating events, his client’s experiences have definitely “set him back.”
     Sims has still not applied to college and wants to get the case behind him before he moves on with his life, the attorney said.
     Glasberg, said he has often dealt with police abuse cases over the course of his 40-year career in law, but this case, “was not simply legally abusive with respect to constitutional civil rights, but on a scale of human outrage this is pretty much at the top.”
Glasberg said the defendants will most likely present a legal defense of qualified immunity and that ” If I have to deal with [that defense] in court or in the court of appeals I’ll deal with it then.”

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