BENNINGTON -- Police said a man responded to two teenagers who were crank texting him by sending them pictures of his genitals.
Jeremy Mertz, 39, of Pleasant Street, pleaded not guilty Monday in Vermont Superior Court to a misdemeanor charge of sending indecent material to a minor. He was released on conditions that he not have contact with them.
According to an affidavit by Bennington Police Cpl. Andy Hunt, on Dec. 30 at 4:18 p.m. two juveniles, a male and a female, reported that a man had sent them pictures of his genitals from two phones.
The male juvenile said he had mistakenly sent crank text messages to one of the older male's phones. One said his car was being repossessed, the other was offering to "set him up with a girl" that night for $100.
The teenager told the older male, who police identified as Mertz, that the texts were a joke and sent by accident. Mertz responded with sexual comments. According to the female teenager, Mertz had been made aware of their ages.
The juveniles said Mertz sent them 15 images, but they were only able to produce five, as one conversation had been deleted. They said Mertz invited them to his apartment, which is how they learned his address to tell police.
Hunt called one of the numbers that had been sending the pictures and a male answered, only to hang up when Hunt identified himself. The other number went to a voicemail bearing Mertz's name.
After confirming Mertz's address in a police database, the case was sent to the State's Attorney's Office for review. Hunt was then told by a prosecutor to proceed with the case, so on Jan. 5 he met with Mertz.
Mertz admitted to sending the photos of his genitals via text messages. He said he did so because he believed a female was interested in him and said he was never informed the female was 15 years old. Mertz told police the male and female should be charged because they were soliciting prostitution.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.