SANTA CRUZ -- A man will stand trial on felony charges that he took sexually explicit photographs of his young daughter, a judge ruled Thursday.
Alexander Morisse, 34, was arrested after the girl's mother found photographs of the then 4-year-old girl in a trash folder on a laptop computer he'd given to his daughter.
The mother, who is separated from Morisse, reported the images to Berkeley police in April but because the photos were taken while the family was living in Santa Cruz, it's being prosecuted here.
Morrise and his attorney, Kellin Cooper, argued Morrise took the photos because the child had been extremely curious about her body. Morisse told police he took the photos because "I was trying to facilitate her curiosity about her body in the best way I knew at the time."
Friends described him in testimony this week as a loving and devoted father, and told Judge Rebecca Connolly that they didn't believe he had any sort of sexual intent or purpose in taking the pictures. Cooper said both Morisse and the girl's mother were very open people and nudity was common in the household.
Taking a photograph of one's own child naked is not necessarily illegal, but rather, is based on several factors including the image's focal point and whether the image is intended to elicit a sexual response in the viewer.
Prosecutor Michael Gilman argued the photographs clearly constituted child pornography.
"I'll submit this is a unique household and this is a unique case," he said, but maintained the images were "objectively pornographic."
Cooper contended the girl's mother reported the photographs to police to assist her pending custody battle with Morisse. The mother denied that in testimony Thursday, and said she believed Morisse posed a threat to her daughter and that was why she reported it.
Judge Rebecca Connolly ordered Morisse held on seven charges of using a minor to pose for photographs involving sexual conduct, which under state law can mean the exhibition of the minor's private parts. She dismissed one of the charges but also held Morisse on count of lewd behavior with a minor.
Morisse is due back in court on Sept. 13 for arraignment on the charges.
Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter: @jmpasko96