Our client was 26 years old and was just about to graduate from Georgia Tech with an engineering degree. He was arrested in an internet sting operation and indicted in federal court for communicating with a police officer who was pretending to be a 14-year-old girl.
Our client responded to an ad on Backpage.com looking for a prostitute. The ad was created by the police and it contained pictures of a 26-year-old GBI agent. According to the agents, many people responded to the ad who were not looking for children but most of them turned away when the agent claimed that she was 14.
Our client initially asked the agent to send him a selfie so he could be sure that the picture in the ad was real as many ads on Backpage contain fake pictures. Then, the agent said she was 14 and he was shocked since he had never run into a minor on Backpage before.
The agent then sent a selfie of herself and it was clear that she was at least in her mid-20’s. Our client then called back and said “you’re not really 14 right?” She stuttered and he then realized that she was lying.
Although she kept saying she was 14, our client decided to go out to the house anyway since he was sure that she was not 14. He then got arrested and told the agents that he in no way believed she was 14, pointing to the ad, the selfie, her voice, etc.
A subsequent search of his cell phone revealed no evidence of child pornography or any communications with minors.
At trial, we were able to show that the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, who was conducting this operation, was motivated by incentives they have to make as many arrests as possible. This has caused them in recent years to use techniques that lure people to them who are not predators. Many of them are young, like our client.
We were able to convince the jury that our client was not a predator and had no intention or desire to meet a 14-year-old girl. Also, they concluded that our client clearly did not believe she was 14, which is what the government was required to prove at trial.
As a result, our client was acquitted of the charges and is now able to pursue his engineering career.