Hot-Car-Death Dad Up on New Sex Charges

Justin Ross Harris accused of sexually exploiting minors
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2016 7:00 PM CST
Hot-Car-Death Dad Up on New Sex Charges
Justin Ross Harris, left, appears in court with his attorneys Carlos Rodriguez, from second left, Maddox Kilgore and Bryan Lumpkin at Cobb Superior Court in Marietta, Ga., on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015.    (Kathryn Ingall/The Marietta Daily Journal, Pool via AP)

A Georgia man accused of murdering his son by leaving him in a sweltering hot car is up on new charges: sexually exploiting minors, People reports. Justin Ross Harris, whose 22-month-old son Cooper died in the back of an SUV in 2014, was indicted Friday by a grand jury on six counts of disseminating harmful material to a minor and two counts of sexually exploiting children. He's accused of exchanging lewd and nude photos with underage girls and having sexually explicit conversations with them in months prior to Cooper's death, NBC News reports. But Harris attorney H. Maddox Kilgore says the charges were timed to malign Harris just before his murder trial begins on April 11.

The indictment was filed "to inflame public opinion against Ross on the eve of jury selection," says Kilgore, who calls the allegations "wholly unrelated to the accidental death of Cooper Harris." Yet the original indictment also charges Harris with sending inappropriate texts to underage girls—part of the state's case that he purposely murdered Cooper to free himself of family obligations. Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds says the timing of new charges couldn't be avoided, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. "Had the state delayed charging any further, prosecution of some of the charges would have barred by the statute of limitations," he says. Harris will be tried on the new charges separately. (Harris could face the death penalty.)

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