Detective David Abbott, right, doesn't like being called crazy. Photo via Manassas City's website
Technology always advances faster than the laws that regulate it. That's probably a good thing, given Congress's recent (lack of) activity—if we were forced to wait for approval, everyone would probably still be using dial-up internet and smoking cigarettes made of leaves and paper like cavemen. But it also means that courts find it hard to adjust old laws to fit new problems. Case in point: Earlier this year, a 17-year-old in Manassas, Virginia, was facing child pornography charges after sending a photo of his penis to his 15-year-old girlfriend. Whether teens should or shouldn't be sending each other nudes of themselves is debatable, but it seems clear that when they were banning the manufacturing of child porn legislators probably didn't intend for the victim and the sex offender to be the same person.
When the teenage boy refused to plead guilty, Manassas police said that they were considering photographing the boy's penis in order to prove that it was the same penis in the photos, and that they might have to medically induce an erection. Naturally, the fact that police were thinking about giving a 17-year-old boy an erection and then photograph it in order to punish that 17-year-old boy for taking a photo of that very same 17-year-old boy's erection aroused (ahem) skepticism among both teens and former teens. The boy's lawyer, Jessica Foster, was quoted in the Washington Post saying that the situation was "crazy" after allegedly being told by detective David Abbott that police would "use special software to compare pictures of this penis to this penis."
It doesn't appear that the medically induced erection pic ended up happening, and the teen was eventually sentenced to a year of probation. The case then fell out of the spotlight—until this week. Now Abbott is suing Foster for defamation; he's arguing that her use of the word "crazy" implies that he's unfit "to perform the duties of his office or employment," and that the resulting media attention caused a backlash that led to "severe emotional distress... which resulted in counseling with a psychologist and the need for medication." Legal experts are calling this a first-of-its-kind lawsuit, and suggesting that it won't hold water next to the attorney's First Amendment protections. Which is basically just a nicer way of saying that detective Abbott is probably kinda crazy.
Here's the rest of This Week in Teens:
-Speaking of crazy, how much jail time would you expect to get if you were a 36-year-old woman who trapped your daughter's 18-year-old boyfriend in your mobile home, told him to choose between getting shot in the head or having his penis cut with a box cutter, and then followed through with said box cutter? Some more factors to consider: You suspected he molested your toddler (something he denies and was never arrested for), you didn't actually want to hurt the boy, only scare him and "scar him so that he would have to look at it every time he had sex in the future," and you smoked marijuana that night, and possibly other drugs—you're not entirely sure. If you guessed ten months house arrest and six months probation, you're insane, but you're also right.
-If there's one thing this column keeps saying, it's that teens occupy a unique place in society thanks to their habit of making important decisions while not fully understanding the implications of those choices. If there's a second thing, it's that teens shouldn't join the Islamic State (this is good advice for former teens, too). These two themes came into perfect cohesion this week when a mom from the Netherlands traveled to Syria to rescue her 19-year-old daughter. The teen, a Muslim convert who traveled to Syria to marry a famous Dutch jihadist, had reached out to her mother for help after their marriage failed. While young IS recruits regretting their enlistment is nothing new, this appears to be the first time a teen has successfully convinced their mom to come pick them up. Now the girl is facing possible terror charges in the Netherlands, which still sounds way preferable to living in Syria with a violence-loving vlogger. Details of the rescue operation remain fuzzy, but that could be because authorities don't want to spoil the plot of the inevitable film adaptation, Taken V: I5I5.
-Celebrities: They're just like us, if we constantly acted upon our base impulses without regard for morality or societal constraints. That's why we give them absurd amounts of money and attention and then ruin their lives. When you combine the pure power of celebrity with a teenaged brain, terrible and amazing things can happen. This week the New York Times' T Magazine interviewed 16-year-old Jaden and 14-year-old Willow Smith, heirs to the Fresh Prince throne. Depending on how into Scientology, misunderstood quantum physics, and "ancient texts; things that can't be pre-dated," you are, the conversation will either seem enlightening or like a window into a positively alien mental landscape.
Earlier this week, VICE asked a philosopher to interpret the interview, and he very reasonably noted that it is "really weird. It seems like [Jaden's] going off in a bunch of different directions at once—which you might expect, given that he's a child."
Read that interview if you haven't already. It'll really make you think (that maybe it's not OK to be laughing at teenagers who are probably destined to end up as cautionary tales).
Follow Hanson O'Haver on Twitter.