Seventeen Arrested in Online Child Sex Sting Operation

An internet child sex sting operation just concluded with the arrest of 17 men.  Dubbed Operation DUVAL (Disrupting Underage Virtual Abuse Locally), the undercover operation was initiated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of several Northeast Florida law enforcement agencies.

During the operation, law enforcement officers posed online as young male and female teens looking to have sex with older adult males.  Sometimes the officers posed as the parent of a child looking for sex.  Other times, the undercover decoys pretended to be the child themselves.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams was quoted in an article in the Florida Times-Union as saying the suspects traveled from as far north as North Carolina and as far south as Orlando to have sex with someone they believed to be a 13 or 14 year old boy or girl.  The suspects range in age from 19 to 67. The 17 suspects’ charges range from traveling to meet after using a computer to seduce a child to solicitation of a child via computer to engage in sexual activity and unlawful use of a two-way device.  At least one of the suspects’ cases is in federal, versus state court where the overwhelming majority of these types of cases are filed. 

Under state law, anyone found guilty in these types of cases must usually be sentenced to a minimum of 21 months in state prison.  Under federal law, many of these cases are charged as violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2422(b), attempted enticement of a minor.  Anyone found guilty of that section is subject to a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 10 years.  Thus you can see the stakes are much higher when these cases are brought in federal court.

A vigorous defense of these cases first involves an extremely thorough review of the email and text dialog between the suspect and the undercover decoy to explore the viability of an entrapment defense.  Entrapment occurs where the police have improperly induced a person to commit a crime and that person was not predisposed to commit such a crime.

The next step in these cases is to obtain a psychosexual evaluation.  A psychosexual evaluation focuses on your psychological and sexual functioning. The evaluation examines your sexual interests, attitudes and behaviors to determine whether there are deviancy issues. It also evaluates your risk of re-offending or acting out sexually in the future.

Depending on the type of case and the nature of the allegations, it is sometimes prudent to also have a sexual history polygraph examination.  A sexual history polygraph examination is used to investigate the examinee’s lifetime history of involvement in unknown or unreported offenses and other sexual compulsion, sexual preoccupation, or sexual deviancy behaviors. A “clean” sexual history polygraph examination can be very helpful in both negotiating a resolution of your case with the government, or at sentencing.

Finally, character reference letters can be helpful in these types of cases.  The best references are people who have known you a long time, have observed you around teens and can state they’ve never seen you express any improper interest in, or comments about, teens.  It’s further helpful if  the reference can state they have young children and would not hesitate for you to be around them.

These are some of many things that can be done to help minimize the effect on you from an arrest for participation in an online child sex sting.  If you’ve been arrested in connection with an internet child sex sting operation, make sure you contact a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney with knowledge about, and experience with, these kinds of matters.  Doing so will give you the best chance of avoiding a long jail or prison sentence.  Please call me for a free consultation to discuss how I can help you with your online child sex sting case in Duval, Clay, Nassau or St. Johns Counties.



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