Officers from Clay County and several other agencies posed as young teens online and then arrested 16 men who chatted with them online, set up a meeting and came to a house with plans to have sex or some kind of sexual contact. The men were arrested and taken into custody when they arrived to meet the person they allegedly thought was a child in these Clay County Sex Crimes Cases, according to a report on First Coast News.
The stings are growing more common and were popularized several years ago with the To Catch a Predator series as part of Dateline NBC. Police have honed their craft in these types of stings and are careful to build up as much of a paper trail as they can to try to show clear intent among the men who end up showing up and the house and getting arrested. Most of the men have two charges in common in these Clay County Sex Crimes cases: traveling to meet a minor to conduct unlawful acts and using a two-way communication device to commit a felony. The traveling charge is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison, while the use of the communication device charge is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Some of the men may have additional charges, including drug possession if they had marijuana or any other narcotic on them when they were arrested.
The key though is the traveling to meet a minor charge, because that's the one that would qualify a person as a sex offender. Sex crimes can stick with a person publicly more than any other criminal offense - including murder. When a person pleads guilty to or is convicted of a Clay County Sex Crimes Case, such as traveling to meet a minor, he or she will have to register as a sex offender. That means checking in with police at least every six months. It also means that whenever the person moves into a new house or apartment, neighbors are alerted with the person's picture and the charge that made the person a sex offender. Registered sex offenders are also restricted as to where they can live, and must not be close to a school or other places children congregate. It will be interesting to see if most of the defendants agree to a plea deal or end up taking the Clay County Sex Crimes case to trial. Albeit a different judicial circuit, a similar sting last year in St. Johns County netted far different sentences for those who pleaded guilty versus those who went to trial. Our Clay County Sex Crimes attorney can thoroughly investigate the facts of the case and advise you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision going forward.
If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.