Fifteen men were arrested in St. Johns County this month, caught in a sting set up to catch adults travelling to have sex with a teen after allegedly arranging a meeting online. One of the men arrested in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case is a St. Johns County school bus driver, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. All of the men are charged with: use of a computer to seduce, solicit or lure a child; traveling to meet a child after using a computer to lure a child; and use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony. The travelling to meet a child charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The other two charges are third-degree felonies, which carry a maximum of five years in prison on each count. Add it all up, and each of these men faces a maximum of 25 years in prison on these three St. Johns criminal charges.
Some of those arrested for these St. Johns County Sex Crimes have other charges attached, mostly for drugs found on their possession when they allegedly went to meet the minor. Those factors could certainly play a role in an eventual sentencing, as a judge may use those facts to develop a clearer picture of the intent of the men in going to the meeting place arranged by police.
The police tactic is becoming more and more common, yet it still lures men in from far and wide. In this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, men who were arrested came from Nassau County and Jacksonville, Gainesville and Ormond Beach, even from Southern Georgia. In this case, police said the men went to the house in an attempt to have sexual activity with a 13-year-old or 14-year-old child, the newspaper reported. Once the men entered the home, they were arrested. Law enforcement has refined its tactics in these cases over the years to make the cases hold up better in court.
The stories became a national sensation with Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" series, where the undercover stings were filmed and shown in prime time to a national audience. Local agencies started doing similar stings, but if the men were arrested outside of the home that was set up for the sting, there were questions about whether the cases could be proven. Also, law enforcement became more careful in allowing the adult, or eventual suspect, in the case to initiate the conversation about a sexual encounter. That helps eliminate the entrapment defense that many defendants attempted - some very successfully. These St. Johns County Sex Crimes cases can be difficult to defend, because all of the conversations online are transcribed and right in front of the judge, or jury, in court. And, in a similar St. Johns County Sex Crimes sting last year, those who took their case to trial received significantly longer sentences than those who negotiated a plea agreement. See our previous Blog Post.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.