August 18 2018
Not a month goes by in Florida than some Sheriff or local police department runs one of their Internet sex stings. In almost every sting intellectually disabled men get arrested. Many of them have a disability within the Autistic spectrum. What the police and prosecutors do not understand is that a person with Autism often does not appear to be disabled. They often can navigate the Internet, drive and hold jobs. What they lack are the social skills and most often judgment. They are easily manipulated by savvy detectives trying to make arrests and cases.
The police will post on various social media and dating sites pretending to be an adult, often with suggestive posts like get me pregnant. They will engage the lonely and socially awkward man with suggestive chat and after getting him interested then tell him that they are 14 or 15 years old. The police as part of their bait and switch entrapment techniques will often send a picture of a smiling suggestively posed female. They provide the autistic man with visual and verbal cues and often lure them into traveling to a take down location. After arresting them, they intimidate them into making statements totally taken out of context. To the police, the disabled man is an easy target. The truly sad thing is that many prosecutors do not understand Autism. They confuse the issue of Autism and legal competence and end up prosecuting the Autistic defendant and making them ultimately become registered sex offenders.
Many criminal defense attorneys sadly do not understand this disability and are clueless as to how to defend an autistic or mentally challenged defendant. It is the defense attorneys job to often educate the Judge and the prosecutor. In many jurisdictions like Sarasota and Manatee County, many of the judges come straight out of the prosecutors office, and having never represented a real human being, are unaware and uneducated when it comes to men with this disability. The intellectually disabled are the low hanging fruit and easily lured into compromising situations by police with ICAC grants seeking to justify funds received.
If you have an Autistic child or relative that has become a victim in one of these stings, make sure you hire a criminal defense lawyer experienced in defending the intellectually disabled. Their life is tough enough without being given the label of registered sex offender. I have handled over forty sex sting cases and in my experience I have found that about 20% involve men that have intellectual disabilities or judgment issues that have not been previously diagnosed. Many were special education students in grade and high school and although not legally incompetent are socially incompetent and easily entrapped.