In the latest Sarasota Sex Sting, all of the men that were arrested were held for 96 hours on the fourth floor of the jail with no access to telephones to call relatives or lawyers. It makes a mockery of the criminal justice system and the United States Constitution and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. This is not the first time the Sheriff has done this. Every time his deputies run a sex sting, to conceal the fact that a sex sting is in process, the men arrested are put in a section of the jail without phone access. Even when the fact they are in jail is “smuggled” out by other inmates, when relatives came to visit, they were denied access.
This is a pattern by the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department to effectively deny the men arrested the right to an attorney.
The detectives posed as adults, posting adult profiles on adult sites. It was only after hours and days of chats that the detectives in classic bait and switch claimed they were underage. They got young men hooked in the chat and then changed the age. They asked the young men to travel to them. They asked the young men to bring condoms. The hounded the young men with texts and calls. When the men balked they actively encouraged them to come.
The Sarasota sheriff’s deputies are the real sex predators preying on basically young men who were seeking only adult companionship. When the true facts come out, the public will be outraged.
Almost all of the men are still in jail on high bonds and only in the last 24 hours have been able to speak with anyone. What the Sheriff’s department is doing is just plain wrong. It is wrong on many levels. Hopefully as these cases get into the Courts, juries will find out what our Sheriff is really doing. There is no excuse for law enforcement to act in this manner.
In the second Internet sex sting in as many weeks, twelve men were arrested by Sheriff’s deputies in St. Johns County in April of 2016. Florida leads the nation in running sex stings where undercover deputies try and talk men into meeting with minors for sexual acts. The police describe these types of stings as proactive law enforcement. I would describe it differently. As an experienced sex crime attorney, I have now been involved in over thirty sex sting cases where police post on the Internet trying to lure men into compromising situations. In almost every case, it is the police that are doing the luring and seducing. In many cases, it is the police that make first contact. In many cases, it is the police that post suggestive profiles or make suggestive comments. In many of the cases, the men try and break off contact only to be contacted repeatedly by the undercover cops trying to lure them back in. In many cases, it is the police that ask men to bring condoms, snacks or wear particular clothing. What you see in the press releases is often simply not true. When you actually read the transcripts of the conversations, you would be shocked. Sex is the ultimate bait and often the men that fall for this are introverted, shy and sometimes mentally challenged.
The police are not catching the real sex predators with these types of operations.
Many of the departments receive financial aid in the form of equipment and funding from the Federal Government. They have to justify this “aid” with arrests and prosecutions. The real solution and the answer in keeping children is parental involvement. Parents should be the gatekeeper when it comes to Internet usage. Parental controls should be on computers. The computer should be in the living room, not the child’s bedroom. Parents need to know who their kids are chatting with. Parents should routinely check their kid’s cellphones for suspicious activity. Parents should know if their kids are “sexting” with others on the smartphones. The solution to this problem is prevention not entrapment. If the police spent a tenth of the money they do on stings in educating kids to the dangers the problem would be solved. At the core of the problem is the fact that some Sheriff’s want the publicity. It gets them elected. Some State Attorney’s in election years want to appear “tough on crime”. When they do these operations they can make press releases touting the fact that they are “protecting the children in our County”. Well over half of the men arrested are young, lonely and easily manipulated by experienced undercover chatters. They know what to say to get someone to travel to meet a minor. They know what to say to get someone to send a “dirty pic”. They know how to work the system.
A man was arrested in Douglas County Colorado back in April of 2015. The Douglas County District attorney dropped the case when he proved that he was communicating on the Internet with what was represented to be a 24 year old woman in a profile on an adult site. Even though the case was dismissed the Parker police department still posted his arrest. Now the man seeks an apology. Fat chance he will get one. The police in the Internet sex stings will never admit they were wrong. Fortunately the defendant in the Colorado case had screenshots to prover that he thought he was communicating with an adult. I had a Pinellas County case last year where the police posted and chatted as an adult, and it was only when the man drove 250 miles and showed up that they finally mentioned age. The latest bait and switch
The latest tactic for the police is to post on the adult sites and engage men in chat. They will then mention that they have a little sister who is fourteen years old or in some cases a niece that is underage. The undercover chatters will even send a picture of the fictitious sister. They make it appear that the younger girl needs to “learn about sex’ and the older sister is helping her. In the real world this simply never happens. These are all police sex stings. If you encounter someone on Craigslist, an adult, and they even remotely hint of sex with a younger relative that is underage, terminate all contact, flag the ad and walk away. If you feel that you may be under investigation for chatting with an under cover ICAC chatter call and speak to a criminal defense attorney with experience in sex sting operations defense. The best way to avoid getting arrested is to simply not do anything even remotely illegal. There are no real young girls on the Internet that want to learn about sex only experienced under cover cops. It is always the police trying to entrap an innocent man into doing something he would never do. Internet Sex Sting cases do have defenses
Sex sting cases are tough but not impossible to defend. Some criminal defense attorneys simply do not understand anything but plea bargaining and will encourage people who really do have defenses to accept a plea to State prison, sex offender registration and sex offender probation. Before a person agrees to go to State prison, all of the defenses should be explored. As an experienced sex crimes lawyer, I have handled dozens of the sex sting cases and even ones that seemed impossible have been resolved with lesser offenses and lesser sentences. Never give up hope and I encourage you to seek a second opinion. There may be something that an inexperienced defense lawyer may have overlooked.
If you or a loved one has been arrested feel free to call my office in Sarasota for a confidential free consultation. Call 941 366 3506 Aiken, O’Halloran and Associates