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This story was corrected on April 19, 2013. An explanation follows the article.

The case of three male students from West Springfield High School who were arrested at the school Jan. 11 on child pornography charges has resulted in felony charges for the three teens.

On Thursday, the three teens, ages 16, 16 and 15, faced Fairfax County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas P. Mann on charges of “unlawful filming,” considered under Virginia law as a class six felony when the subject of the filming is a “non-consenting person under the age of 18.” The charge is punishable by up to five years in prison. Two of the teens pleaded no contest to one count each of unlawful filming, while the third pleaded not guilty and was found guilty of two counts of the crime. A no-contest plea means that a defendant will not contest the charge of a particular crime but is not admitting guilt.

Defense attorneys Mark Petrovich and Gretchen Taylor represented two of the boys, and attorney Mark G. Leffler represented the third.

“My client pleaded no contest to one count of unlawful filming but the judge did not find him guilty,” said Taylor, who represents one of the two teens who pleaded no Ccontest to the crime. “The judge has witheld his finding of guilty until a sentencing report can be prepared.”

The teens were all originally charged with the possession, reproduction, distribution, solicitation and facilitation of child pornography. The charges stemmed from videos of six teenage girls from West Springfield and other area high schools engaged in various sexual acts and stages of undress, all allegedly taken and distributed by the three boys. The Fairfax County Times does not divulge the names of minors charged with crimes.

“This case originated on Nov. 29 when the school resource officer at the school was told about it,” said Master Police Officer Eddy Azcarate. “As it grew, the SRO discovered there were six female teen victims and sought the help of our child exploitation unit. As a result, the three suspects were charged on Jan. 11 at the high school. The case remains under investigation.”

Following the arrests of the three students, West Springfield High School Principal Mark Greenfelder sent a letter home to the parents of all students, explaining what happened.

“I want to be very clear that while arrests were made here at school the students did not engage in any of these alleged behaviors at school or during school hours,” he said. “The charges that are pending all revolve around alleged inappropriate activity that occurred outside of school over an extended period of time.”

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesman John Torre declined to comment on whether the school system would engage any of its own disciplinary actions against the three male students. “The SRO at West Springfield High School was informed of these allegations back in November and a police investigation was subsequently launched,” he said. “However, FCPS did not conduct a ‘separate’ investigation and does not comment on student disciplinary matters.”

According to Leffler, the videos in question all were of consensual sex taken at parties and other locations and the girls in the videos were not under the influence of any drugs. One minor female testified in court that in at least one instance the filming was not consentual. “It’s an unfortunate mix of teenage libido, alcohol and video. It’s nothing more than that,” Leffler said about the case prior to trial.

All three teens will be sentenced in June.

Capt. Bruce Ferguson of the Fairfax County Police Community Resources Division sits on the board of directors for the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County, a nonprofit coalition made up of local community leaders to prevent alcohol and substance abuse among Fairfax County teens. Ferguson has six daughters of his own, four of whom are teens.

“Sexual encounters and other poor decisions made by impaired underage drinkers can be harmful to themselves and others for the rest of their lives,” Ferguson said. “These days almost everyone has a video camera on their phone and once something gets on the Internet, there’s no retrieving it.”

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com

This story originally said two of the teens pleaded guilty, when in fact they pleaded “no contest.”