A hearing to decide whether a Chehalis teen will be tried as an adult for allegedly extorting classmates with explicit photos collected on the internet has been rescheduled to November.
The 16-year-old Chehalis boy, a student at W.F. West, is being held in Lewis County Juvenile Detention on charges of first-degree dealing in depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, first-degree possession of such images and second-degree extortion.
Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer has filed a request to “decline” the boy to Lewis County Superior Court, where he would be charged as an adult. Meyer told The Chronicle earlier this month that he expects his office to amend the teen’s charges to include 30 to 40 separate offenses.
The Chronicle does not name suspects charged in Lewis County Juvenile Court.
A hearing on Meyer’s motion to charge the boy as an adult is scheduled for 1 p.m., Nov. 29, in Lewis County Superior Court before Judge Joely O’Rourke.
The teen made his first appearance on the charges on Oct. 10 in Juvenile Court, where Meyer and court staff argued that the boy should be held in custody pending future hearings out of a concern for community safety. O’Rourke agreed and the boy was taken into custody, where he remains. He had been attending classes with at least one of his accusers.
His decline hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday. However, the teen’s attorney, Jonathan Feste, of Tacoma, asked for more time to review the large amount of evidence collected in the case.
Meyer did not object.
“We did not anticipate going forward today,” he said.
Meyer said Tuesday he recently turned over more than 1,000 pages of evidence to Feste and was still reviewing thousands of photos submitted as evidence in the case.
Feste told O’Rourke Tuesday that he is also seeking the teen’s counseling records to use as evidence. Meyer said new evidence could change his mind on seeking to charge the boy as an adult.
“I think there’s a lot for both the state and myself to learn,” Feste said.
In June, the Chehalis School District, Chehalis Police Department and the FBI confirmed to The Chronicle that the federal agency was investigating reports that a teenage boy in at least one example posed as a female student in order to solicit explicit photos from a male student.
The FBI’s investigation discovered that the Chehalis teen allegedly made multiple social media accounts under assumed names in an effort to collect explicit photos under false pretenses. He then allegedly used the photos to extort their subjects.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the investigation discovered hundreds of photos in the teen’s possession and dozens of victims, including 20 so far identified the teen’s classmates at W.F. West High School.
The teen reportedly referred to himself as a “predator” in interviews with detectives.