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Saturday July 28, 2001 08:13 AM EDT

'American High' subject charged with making sex video with minor

By Bob Susnjara Daily Herald Staff Writer

Video is in the career plans of a Highland Park teenager who became a main character on PBS' "American High," but video also has landed him in hot water with the law.

Morgan Moss, 19, is accused of taping himself having sex with a 16-year-old girl and then distributing the video. He was indicted this week on charges of child pornography, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and marijuana possession.

Prosecutors and Highland Park police said they became aware of the video after the 16-year-old girl distributed fliers of a naked Moss at the city's downtown Metra commuter rail station. Authorities said the girl used the video's images to make the fliers.

Alluding to the girl's July 1 flier distribution, attorney Thomas Briscoe said authorities are failing to realize Moss really is the victim. Briscoe said the girl retaliated against Moss because he ended their relationship.

Briscoe said the girl knew a camera was running when she had sex with Moss late last year. He said Moss was 18 when the amorous activity occurred.

"The wrong person got charged in this thing," Briscoe said Friday.

Moss was among 14 Highland Park High School students whose lives were documented through the 1999-2000 academic year for the series "American High." PBS acquired "American High" after it flopped on the Fox network.

At one point in the series, Moss said of his life as a teenager: "These are the years that you're supposed to go wild, blame it all on your parents or society, not have to suffer the consequences, have unprotected sex, go do drugs, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, watch pornos, rent porno movies, get porno magazines. Porno, porno, porno!"

Moss has been working as a freelance video producer and is attending classes at Columbia College in Chicago, Briscoe said.

Highland Park Deputy Police Chief Michael Caskey said surveillance-camera images captured at the downtown Metra station led authorities to the 16-year-old who distributed the Moss fliers. There may have been 40 fliers circulated at the station, triggering some complaints, he said.

Matthew Chancey, head of felony review for the Lake County state's attorney's office, said police interviewed her July 2. He said the 16-year-old indicated she wanted to get back at Moss for producing the video of the young couple having sex.

"He (Moss) was passing copies of the tapes to other people," Chancey said.

Caskey said Highland Park police are investigating the case. He said there may be a second female victim, but he declined to elaborate.

Moss, who remains free on a recognizance bond, isn't the first Lake County teen to face criminal accusations of videotaping a sexual encounter.

In late 1998, a 13-year-old Zion boy was charged on allegations he shot video of himself having sex with a girl and showed the tape to a friend. Authorities said the boy and girl were 12 when the incident occurred.

After the boy pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of attempted child pornography, Lake County Associate Judge Joseph Waldeck sentenced him to one year of probation in February 2000.

Moss is to be arraigned in Lake County court Aug. 9 on the felony child pornography charge. The other charges against Moss, possession of marijuana and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, are misdemeanors.

Alan Moss, the accused teen's father, said Friday he could not discuss the case on the advice of the family's attorney.

"It's too big of a bag of worms," Alan Moss said.

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