Friday, July 11, 2014

Radley Balko: We Must Destroy the Children in Order to Save Them

What a great piece (see below), unfortunately inspired by the Manassas case where charges are still pending against the 17 year old male.  

Mr. Balko was one of the many speakers at the Center for Prosecutorial Integrity’s Summit that I attended in Washington, D.C. last month. As did two Virginia Commonwealth Attorney’s and a Virginia Attorney General contact that I chatted with. Too bad C.A. Paul Ebert didn’t attend the Summit. 
In 2009 the Virginia Crime Commission voted against legislation separating Teen Sexting from Child Pornography on the claim that our Commonwealth Attorney’s use proper discretion in these types of cases and uniformity.  
As the 2009 article (above link) reminds us. Delegate Albo said, taking the discretion away from the state's 120 elected prosecutors could result in a teen being punished for a stupid mistake while allowing a serious predator to receive a mere slap on the wrist. Mr. Albo called possible legislation a total minefield. We are dancing on very, very scary territory here if you're talking about changing the law, he said. 
I beg to differ. 
The current situation of a 17 year old male in Manassas who is being charged and facing a lifetime on the Virginia Registry for reciprocating with a sexual image when a 15 year old female initiated the sexting and she is not facing any charges, plus the despicable warrant (that will now be allowed to expire) that would have forced the 17 year to become sexually erected and then submit to photographs. THAT is “scary territory”. 
Unnecessary damage is already occurring in the Commonwealth because there are prosecutors who are over zealous and lack common sense in these cases.

It’s time for Virginia to separate “Teen Sexting” from Child Pornography and that includes production, dissemination and possession AND it should include 18 and 19 year olds who are in age appropriate relationships and “sext” without force, threat or intimidation. They pose no threat to society and to prosecute, imprison and stigmatize them as Sex Offenders is no benefit to the Commonwealth and it destroys any chances of a positive and productive future for the youth.

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"
                                                                                                -William Blackstone
Mary Devoy

We Must Destroy the Children in Order to Save Them
By Radley Balko                               July 11, 2014

My colleague Tom Jackman’s story about the efforts of officials in Northern Virginia to forcibly induce an erection in a teenage boy in order to pursue “sexting” charges against him has deservedly provoked national outrage. As Jackman points out, Manassas police have since backed down and now say that they won’t execute the warrant. Of course, there remains the problem of why the warrant was issued in the first place. No one in the  Manassas Police Department, the office of Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert or the judge who signed off on the warrant was able to see what the rest of the country saw, here: an outrageous abuse of power and an unfathomable violation of this kid’s privacy. The Commonwealth of Virginia was prepared to create child porn in order to prosecute a 17-year-old kid for sending videos of himself to his then-girlfriend, who was 15 years old. 

There’s a lot going on in this case. We can start with Paul Ebert, a dinosaur of the Virginia criminal justice system. I wrote a bit about Ebert’s history in a previous post here at The Watch about prosecutorial misconduct. The general takeaway is that Ebert, who has been in office for more than 40 years, has a long and sordid history of poor judgment yet has never been sanctioned or disciplined for his conduct. In 2011, his office was the subject of a blistering opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. As Andrew Cohen points out in the linked article, it wasn’t the first time that has happened.