22 Men Arrested for Soliciting a Minor Online in Interstate Sex Sting by Florida Police

May 16, 2011 by David S. Seltzer

As a solicitation of a minor online attorney, I was interested to see reports of a recent series of arrests by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in central Florida. According to the Ledger of Lakeland, the department arrested 22 defendants, all men, for traveling to Polk County for what they thought was sex with a child. The defendants were responding to false advertisements placed on craigslist, OKCupid and other websites from parents or guardians who wanted older men to teach their children how to have sex. The fictional “children” were as young as nine years old, and the defendants traveled from Texas, Virginia, Maryland and Missouri as well as cities across Florida. The Orlando Sentinel reported charges including traveling to attempt to seduce a child and use of a computer service to solicit a child. Reports suggested all defendants will face charges in Florida, not federal charges.

The effort was a collaboration between Florida counties including Polk, Lake, Osceola, Hernando and Hendry; the Orlando and Plant City police departments; the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; the Polk County State’s Attorney’s office and the Florida Attorney General. However, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd took the lead in a press conference last week called in Winter Haven, where he held up gifts the arrestees had brought for the “children.” These included sex toys as well as stuffed animals, flowers and other more traditionally romantic gifts. Polk County has run seven such investigations totaling 122 arrests since 2006, the Ledger said, and as a result, potential targets are starting to resist coming to the area. The people arrested included people from all walks of life: students, a former CEO, a computer consultant to the federal government and others.

A casual observer might wonder if these defendants can use an “entrapment” defense to the charges, since of course they wouldn’t have come to Florida if the fictional parents and guardians hadn’t offered them sex with the fictional children. However, as an online solicitation of a minor defense lawyer, I’m afraid entrapment is not automatically available, even to people who were caught in a “sting.” In order to prove entrapment, you must be able to show that the government enticed you to do something you weren’t otherwise inclined to do. Prosecutors will try to show this inclination by demonstrating that you had child pornography depicting similar acts in your possession, or that your online communications with detectives showed you needed no prompting. However, if this kind of record doesn’t exist and detectives had to repeatedly encourage you, entrapment may be an option. If you’d like to pursue this defense, it’s important to speak to an experienced cyber crimes defense attorney as early as possible in your case.

If you’re charged with a serious sex crime like soliciting a child or child pornography possession, don’t wait to call the experienced attorneys at Seltzer Law, P.A. for help. For a free, confidential case evaluation, you can send us an email or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333), 24 hours a day and seven days a week.