For the past week the sheriff here in Sarasota has been running an Internet Sex Stingtargeting gay men. There have been 18 arrests that have mostly been not reported on the official records. When the stings are running and people are being arrested, the sheriff and the clerk of Court do not allow the information to get out. This makes it really tough for the guys that get arrested to contact relatives or bondsmen. You have a right to an attorney, but if you are sitting in the Sarasota jail, they dont make contacting an attorney very easy. That is why initially, most of the men have the public defender appointed. As the men are bonded out, those that can afford it seek private defense attorneys.
So far, only one out of eighteen men has been able to hire their own personal attorney.
It is critical that family and friends not abandon those charged in internet sex stings. You cannot believe what you see and hear on television when the press release is finally made. The Sheriff will always say that we are keeping the children of Sarasota safe. What they do not report is the fact that most of the time, they are creating a crime, not detecting or preventing one. There were 16 men arrested in Lee County (Ft. Myers) and once again, it was a gay sting. This has to be a bad week for the gay community with 34 men being arrested
From what I am hearing, there have been a bunch of arrests this weekend in Sarasota as a result of cops on Grinder pretending to be twinks baiting older guys with suggestive sexual innuendo.
When the guys travel they get busted for traveling to meet a minor to engage in sex after soliciting on the Internet.
The real issue is who is doing the real solicitation.
Is it the undercover twink chatter or is it the older guy? Only time will tell as these new cases work their way through the Court system. In the meantime, these guys sit with high bonds with literally the rest of their life on the line.
This answers the question of which applications the police are going to use to keep running thesex stings. Since Backpage.com and Craigslist Casual Encounters got shut down everyone has been wondering how it will affect the ICAC sex stings. Grinder unlike the prostitution sites is for consenting gay adults. Evidently, now with the prostitution sites taken down the police are going to have to settle for targeting gay guys. As a sex sting lawyer, in the past, only a tiny percentage of the men arrested were gay. This represents a major shift by law enforcement now going after the men on the remaining sites that have not been taken down.
If you are gay, and anyone even remotely suggests they are underage, do not even chat with them. You can get arrested for just talking, much less doing something. The best way not to get arrested is to not commit a crime. Never under any circumstances send a dick pic to anyone even remotely underage. A conviction for traveling to meet a minor can result in you becoming a registered sex offender and can destroy your life. Never text or chat with anyone that says they are remotely underage. If you plan on hooking up, demand proof of age. Do not assume that because they may say they are of legal age that they are. Demand a verified photo ID before you do anything. Do not assume that if you meet a young man in a bar that he is of legal age. Your life is at stake. AGE VERIFY ALWAYS.
Is there another sex sting running now in Sarasota?
Sarasota is long overdue for anotherInternet Sex sting. Now that Craigslist Casual Encounters has been taken down and now that Backpage.com has been shut down it will be interesting to see how law enforcement entices men to respond to their ICAC investigations. My bet is that they will be using the smart phone applications like Tinder, snapchat and other dating sites like Meetme.com or PlentyoFish.com. Right now, May 21st, if things go as usual, the Sheriffs department will be blocking the release of public information and denying the men their right to an attorney by not allowing them to make outgoing calls to family, friends or even an attorney. I fully expect that there will be a press release today or one day this week. Time will tell.
As a sex crime lawyer, I have defended over forty sex sting cases all over Florida. I am curious to see what tool the undercover chatters will be using to entice men totravel to meet a minor. The usual charge is unlawful use of a computer to solicit a minor or traveling to meet a minor after using a computer to solicit a minor”. For years I have blogged telling both men and women the best way to not get arrested is to never communicate with anyone that ever even hints they are underage. In the stings, typically, the undercover chatters claim to be adults and then when the chat gets going they say something like I am sorry, dont be mad, but I am really 14. They try and sucker the guys into continuing the chat with enticing hints that they are really old for my age or they like older guys. Sadly, over the years I have found that the men who fall for this are insecure and sometimes autistic or mentally challenged.
Do you have a husband brother or father you have not heard from in days? Have you checked to see if they are in jail? Until the sting breaks, they may not be able to call. I will be following this over the next few days to see if the sting is really running and see how many guys get entrapped.