The photo showed one of the young men having sex with the girl, according to police. He was 17 at the time. Another male teen also was involved in the sex act.
Detectives believe the photo was taken without the girl's permission in late 2012 or early 2013. It was then shared with the boys' friend who posted it to Twitter, a social media website, in May.
School officials and police found out about the photo the next day. The investigation recently wrapped up, Edmonds police Sgt. Mark Marsh said Wednesday. Earlier this month, detectives obtained a judge's permission to search Twitter archives for evidence regarding the people involved, including deleted accounts and postings, documents show.
Detectives are asking prosecutors to charge the young man who allegedly took the photo and shared it with others. He's 18 now. They suggest charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and possessing child pornography. Both alleged offenses are felonies.
Police also recommended charging the young man who allegedly posted the photo online. They suggest he be charged with possessing child pornography and dealing in child pornography, both felonies. He is 18.
No charges were recommended against the third boy, who is now 17, because he wasn't believed to be involved in the distribution of the photo, Marsh said. The girl was 14 or 15 at the time.
The picture did not show the teens' genitals. The sex act was believed to be consensual. It's unclear whether state age-of-consent laws were violated because there was conflicting information about when exactly the incident took place, Marsh said.
The photo was deleted from Twitter shortly after it was posted, according to the search warrant.
When the incident was reported, two of the young men and the victim attended Edmonds-Woodway High School. The other young man is from Shoreline.
The Herald is not naming the people involved because they have not been charged.
If felony charges are declined, the case likely will go to a lower court for possible misdemeanor charges, Marsh said.
"Because of the frequent use of social media, tracking these types of crimes is very difficult, and we need to carefully evaluate each of these incidents that is reported," Marsh said. "It's so easy for people these days to commit crimes or have errors in judgment that could affect them for the rest of their lives."
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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