A man from Jacksonville and another from St. Johns County were arrested last week, caught by undercover detectives who say they men were on their way to a sexual encounter with a child they believed to be under the age of 14. But the person they were accused of chatting with online and arranging to meet was not a child, but instead law enforcement working on behalf of police to help arrest adults looking for sex with children, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In all, 22 men were arrested in the sting, including the two with ties to Northeast Florida, the newspaper reported.
The men are charged with travelling to meet a minor to engage in a sex act; using a computer to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child; and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. Traveling to meet a minor is the most serious of the three charges and is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The other two charges are both third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in state prison. So each of the men in these Florida Sex Crimes cases are looking at the potential of 25 years in state prison, if they plead guilty or are convicted and the judge chooses to sentence them to the maximum possible and run the sentences consecutively. That’s unlikely to happen, but the men are likely looking at prison time – especially given the recent local history on these types of stings.
These undercover operations are not uncommon, and there appears to be no shortage of men who end up getting charged in similar stings. They were initially made popular on national television with Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series, when camera crews and detectives would set up in different cities and essentially reel would-be predators in. Police record all of the internet chats and discussions, so there is often a lengthy paper trail when the men appear in court – a paper trail that doesn’t sound good at all when read before a jury. On top of any prison time, all of the defendants in these Florida Sex Crimes cases are also likely looking at having to register as a sex offender. That requires checking in with police at least twice a year and notifying police whenever the person changes residences. An when a sex offender moves, immediate neighbors are notified of his or her presence in the neighborhood – with the address and a description of the charge he or she was convicted of or pleaded guilty to. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney is well-versed in the consequences of defendants being classified as a sex offender and can explain the policies and procedures so you or your loved one can make an informed decision going forward with you case.
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 Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.