ACLU questions validity of massive child porn investigation - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

ACLU questions validity of massive child pornography investigation in Louisa

LOUISA, VA (WWBT) -

The American Civil Liberties Union is speaking out, saying it's concerned with how police are handling a massive child porn investigation in Central Virginia.

NBC12 was the first to tell you that authorities are looking into more than one thousand inappropriate pictures and videos posted online involving teens in Louisa, Hanover and Goochland.

The ACLU goes as far to say that minors have the constitutional right to take nude photos of themselves and send it to most whomever they chose. While, according to investigators, they're trying to save these teens from committing crimes that will forever mar their record.

More than one hundred children and teens are allegedly involved in the scandal spanning at least three jurisdictions.

As part of their investigation, Louisa investigators say more than a dozen cell phones were confiscated.

"Do they have probable cause for each one of those seizures?" Asked Claire Gastanaga, Executive Director of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU. "A cell phone is a piece of property just like your house or your car. The police don't get to search it unless you give them permission and you're not required to give them permission unless they get warrant."

Gastanaga says, she saw NBC12's report and questions the validity of the police investigation. She believes minors have a constitutional right to take a picture of themselves however they want and send it to most whomever they want.

"We think that's protected by the First Amendment as an expressive activity," she said.

Louisa police are investigating an Instagram account that directs teens to a third party site they can only access if they submit nude photos of themselves.

Under federal and state law, if a minor takes a "naked selfie," it's considered manufacturing child pornography. If the minor sends it, that's distribution.

The recipient of that photo could be charged with possession of child pornography, even if they're underage.

Louisa police say, they're enforcing the law and trying to protect these children from themselves.

To that Gastanaga says, "We want to protect children but protecting children at the expense of their constitutional rights that's not protecting children."

Louisa police tell NBC12 it's doubtful any charges will come from this investigation and that no adults are involved. Still, investigators say, they want to teach these teens what they've allegedly done is serious business and illegal.

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