We were retained to represent a Georgia Tech student who was arrested in an internet sting operation. He posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a girl between the ages of 20-30 years old. An undercover officer responded to the ad pretending to be a 14-year-old girl. Our client first remarked that the “girl” was too young, but then after continued communication and prodding from the officer, he agreed to meet the girl for the purpose of having sex. He was then indicted in DeKalb County Superior Court for computer exploitation.
We were able to lay out a solid entrapment defense. First, it was clear from the search of our client’s phone that he did not have a sexual interest in children—there was no child pornography found and no evidence of prior communications with minors. Second, he was especially vulnerable to the officer’s inducement as his girlfriend had just broken up with him and he was extremely depressed. Most importantly though, his Craigslist ad clearly targeted girls his own age. There was little to no chance of him meeting or conversing with a minor if not for the actions of the officer.
During their conversation, the officer sent our client a picture purporting to be the 14-year-old girl. In the picture, it is not obvious that she is under 16, plus she is wearing what clearly appears to be a Florida State Seminoles sweatshirt (an ACC school, just like GA Tech).
We interviewed several students at the university who confirmed how depressed our client was at the time. They also told us that he never dated girls that were younger than him. We sent our client for a polygraph that confirmed that he had never previously attempted to meet a minor for the purpose of having sex. Lastly, we had him undergo a psychosexual evaluation to further show that he had no sexual interest in children.
We conducted several focus groups to test our entrapment defense with DeKalb County residents. The results of the focus groups were mixed. While there were several participants who agreed with our defense and were willing to acquit our client, there were also a handful in each group who were skeptical of the concept of entrapment and wanted to convict him. We still felt confident in our ability to win this case at trial.
Just prior to the case being set for trial, we were able to get the prosecutors to agree to dismiss the charges in exchange for a misdemeanor plea to disorderly conduct. Our client accepted the plea and walked away with 12 months probation, no felony conviction and no sex offender registration.