- Associated Press - Thursday, October 29, 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey sheriff’s officer was charged Thursday with illegally obtaining and providing mugshot photos of a juvenile suspect to a newspaper.

Mercer County Sheriff’s Officer Christopher McKenna was charged with wrongful access and disclosure of information. His attorney said he hasn’t had a chance to speak to McKenna and didn’t have any comment on the charges.

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said McKenna accessed three photos from a restricted photo database used by county and local law enforcement. He said the website included a statement that information from the database can only be used for law enforcement purposes and unauthorized use can result in criminal prosecution.

The crime carries a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

The Trentonian newspaper ran three mugshot photos in August of Radazz Hearns. Hearns was 14 at the time and charged with aggravated assault and weapons offenses. During a foot chase, he was shot seven times by police who say he pointed a gun at them. He is being tried as a juvenile on the charges stemming from the chase.

The attorney general’s office has refused to release information about the officers involved in the shooting, and says the investigation is ongoing. Hoffman on Thursday didn’t provide a motive in the case against McKenna.

Hearns was publicly identified by his mother, and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union joined with Hearns’ family and protesters to demand an investigation after the photos were published. The ACLU also has joined with the newspaper, which has insisted the attorney general release the names of the officers who fired at the boy.

“What we have here is information that was released for the purpose of smearing the reputation of a 14-year-old, that’s very different than information about law enforcement that’s to ensure community accountability and trust,” said Alexander Shalom, senior staff attorney for ACLU New Jersey.

Shalom said the state should continue to investigate the release of information on Hearns’ juvenile record.

Isaac Avilucea, the reporter who obtained the images, said he refused to cooperate with investigators and will not name the person who provided the photos.

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