Two years ago a young man faced serious charges over a sexting case. Trey Sims, then 17-years-old, sent his 15-year-old girlfriend a picture of his erect penis. The girl’s parents discovered the picture and reported it to the police. This led Sims’s arrest and a rather bizarre warrant issued in the case. One of the detectives asked for and received a warrant to force Sims to submit to police taking pictures of his erect penis.
When this made news, the warrant was withdrawn. Sims ended up going to trial and being forced on probation and to serve 100 hours of community service as condition for the charges being dropped. He recently decided to file a federal lawsuit against the prosecutors and police over the warrant the incident:
The teenager, Trey Sims, 19, filed a federal civil rights suit Wednesday against both [David E. Abbott Jr’s] estate and Claiborne Richardson II, the assistant Prince William commonwealth’s attorney who police said directed Abbott to obtain a search warrant for photographs of Sims’ genitalia, for comparison with video sent to Sims’ then-15-year-old girlfriend. In June 2014, Abbott did get a search warrant and photograph Sims with a cell phone, which attorney Victor M. Glasberg alleged was manufacturing child pornography. When Abbott and Richardson obtained a second search warrant, for photos of Sims erect, reports in The Washington Post “prompted a firestorm of public protest,” Glasberg wrote, causing Richardson and Abbott to withdraw the warrant.
Richardson did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday. Though Abbott’s estate is named as a defendant, Glasberg said that if liability insurance held by the Manassas City police did not cover the former detective’s actions, he would not pursue assets held by his heirs.
Readers may notice the mention of Abbott’s estate rather than Abbott himself. This is because Abbott is no longer alive. He committed suicide last year when police attempted to arrest him for allegedly sexually abusing two teenage boys:
In his spare time he coached 13- and 14-year-old boys in travel hockey for the Potomac Patriots program at the Prince William Ice Center in Woodbridge, club officials said. When Prince William police learned Monday of the allegations of improper contact by Abbott over a period of years, they moved quickly.
Police said they 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, county police said.
Detectives then learned of a second potential victim, a boy who was 13 and was also part of the Patriots hockey club in 2008 when Abbott began sending him inappropriate messages, police said.
This is the same detective who later obtained a search warrant and forced then 17-year-old Trey Sims to essentially pose for child porn while in juvenile detention:
That day, Abbott obtained a search warrant and at the juvenile detention center ordered Sims to pull down his pants, or Abbott would force him to do so, the suit alleges. Abbott then took photos of Sims’ unerect penis with a cell phone, forced Sims “to touch and position his penis for the pictures,” Glasberg wrote, “to be photographed as though masturbating, thereby creating child pornography.”
This is the same detective who Manassas City police praised for “the contributions [he] made during his time with Manassas City Police, to include the prosecution and conviction of hundreds of criminals”, particularly serial child rapist Kevin Ricks, after Abbott was accused of child molestation,
No one expects the police to admit they had an apparent child rapist working with them, let alone one who worked as the lead on child rape cases, that none of them noticed. One can understand why admitting this would make Manassas City Police look inept and blind and technically tacit enablers of child abuse.
What is inexplicable is how no one took issue with a police officer obtaining a search warrant to force a child to masturbate on camera. How does that request reach someone’s desk and someone who understands the law sign it? Who signs that request? Who thinks it is appropriate, let alone legal, to force a child to masturbate or simulate masturbation? Who thinks it is legal to produce child pornography, which it clearly is, in order to prosecute someone for creating and possessing child pornography?
Better yet, who approves this request:
[…] Abbott told Foster that he would need photos of Sims’ erect penis to compare to the video sent to the girl. “Det. Abbott advised [Foster],” Glasberg wrote, “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,” a threat which was “gratuitous, malicious, wanton and willful.”
One must realize every hand that touches this request would know this is illegal. There is no way they would not. It is blatantly obvious this is outside of the law. What we have are people who either did not read the request or think they do not have to abide by the very law they used to charge Sims.
A similar situation arose when the FBI exploited a technical flaw in the Tor browser and used it to ensnare thousands of people accessing a hidden child porn site. The way the FBI did this was by taking control over the site and keeping it active for two weeks in order to infect users’ computers with malware that would allow the FBI to discover the users’ identities. The problem is that the FBI ran the site with all the child porn still in place. They essentially distributed child porn. As a result, their cases against those they charged are in jeopardy.
The FBI is struggling to justify that act, and all they did was keep the site active. They did not create new content. Abbott did create new content. He created and sought to create the very content the police charged Sims for.
Sims alleges “that his Fourth Amendment right not to be unreasonably searched was violated by both his arrest and the photography of his genitalia, and that Richardson and Abbott conspired to violate Sims’ civil rights after Sims declined a plea offer from Richardson”. He has a strong case, and if this goes to trial he would likely win. It more likely settlement will be offered to get rid of the case, although the trial would be more beneficial to ensuring this does not happen to anyone else.
There is, however, another element to this case that no one talks about:
It states that the incident began when Sims’ girlfriend sent nude photos of herself to him by cell phone, which the girl’s mother identified at Sims’ trial in 2014. Sims responded with “an explicit video of himself via his cell phone,” Glasberg wrote, though Abbott testified that the sender’s face was not visible. The girl’s mother reported the video to the Manassas City police. Sims was then charged with manufacturing and distributing child pornography, but the girl was not. Glasberg said Richardson and Abbott only charged Sims because he is male, a violation of his equal protection rights.
For some reason this girl was not charged despite not only producing, possessing, and distributing child porn, but also doing it first. It is a blatant double standard. This is not to say no girls have ever been charged with sexting, yet in many cases involving teenagers doing what teenagers do, when a girl does it, she usually faces no penalty. No one reports her to the police. No one charges her with a crime. No one convicts her as a sex offender. Regardless of her age compared to the boy, the girl usually walks.
The gendered nature of the application of these laws is something we must stop ignoring. If we did not have this double standard, Sims would never have been charged. The police would have dismissed the complaint for what it was — kids being kids — and moved on.
It is our attitude that girls must be the victims that leads to people sabotaging boys’ lives by charging them with sex crimes over the most trivial things.