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Man charged with child molestation claims innocence

Innocent until proven guilty? In America, that’s the way the law is supposed to work, but what about public opinion? If someone is accused of sex crimes, especially against a child, they are often publicly ruined. Everyone deserves their day in court and the opportunity to plead their case before being stamped with a guilty verdict. Unfortunately, even if found innocent, it is often too late to save one’s reputation once “sexual predator” has been attached. A Florida man, accused of raping a 12-year-old relative, was recently arrested in Knoxville, Tennessee. Officials will be extraditing him back to Florida to face molestation charges. Detectives have been trying to apprehend the man for over six months. Believing he was in Knoxville, they asked the Great Smoky Mountain Fugitive Task Force to assist them. With their help, they apprehended him in the downtown area. While the man was referred to as one of “Tennessee’s most wanted,” the Florida man has his own side of the story. He claims he is innocent. He alleges with “100 percent” certainty that he was set up. According to the man, he had a bedroom in the house, and the girl set him up. The man claims he traveled to Tennessee by Greyhound bus last September and has been there since Tennessee and Oregon faced off in football. He says that his employment in Florida was over. Whether this man is innocent or guilty will be up to a court to decide. He will need a good defense team to prepare a detailed and thorough defense plan. The man has a previous criminal record, which includes some drug charges and grand theft auto. Source: Local 8, “Accused child rapist talks after arrest in Knoxville” Lauren Davis, May. 21, 2014

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Orlando woman charged with prostitution and child neglect

A 22-year-old woman has been arrested in Orlando, Florida, and charged with child neglect and prostitution, as well as theft. She allegedly lured men to her home with solicitation of sex with young girls, and then the men were robbed at gunpoint when they entered the home. Her scheme was said to have been going on for about four months before she was busted. It all started when a 17-year-old friend moved in with the woman. The teen was expected to watch the woman’s 2-year-old child to pay for her keep. Then a 16-year-old runaway moved in with her 17-year-old friend at the house. The woman allegedly exposed her scheme to them and asked them to join her. The woman ran an enticing online ad for prostitution. The girls were mainly supposed to be decoys for the men who answered the ad. When the men arrived at the house, they paid at the door. Then as they entered the house, some were robbed at gunpoint, while others were treated to the promised sexual favors with one of the girls. Alleged gang members were used for the robberies, and the woman received a portion of the take. According to what the woman allegedly told the girls when she exposed her scheme to them, she was making thousands of dollars a week. However, her scheme went sour when the 16-year-old runaway decided to go back home to her family. She told family members about the criminal activity she was involved in. The 16-year-old alleges that she actually only had sex with three of the men and was mostly used as a decoy. The 22-year-old woman, now facing these felony charges, will need a strong defense team to counter these charges. Unfortunately, this woman has been arrested previously on charges of aggravated battery, which will not help her attorneys when trying to portray her innocence in this case. However, people need to remember that allegations are not fact, and everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Source: Daily News, “Florida mom used underage prostitutes in robbery scheme: sheriff” Doyle Murphy, Apr. 06, 2014

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Florida man accused of misconduct with school age child

Sex crimes or accusations are filed at alarming rates in Florida and other places. These types of crimes generate a lot of emotion from citizens. Most people usually see the alleged perpetrator as being someone who has no scruples. However, that is not always the case. Sometimes good people do bad things, and sometimes accusations are unfounded. Everyone deserves the depiction of innocence until proven guilty. In Orange County, Florida, one woman, who was out walking, saw something that she found to be offensive and wrong. At a school bus stop, she witnessed a man and a young boy kissing and fondling each other. She allegedly stopped and asked their ages before calling 911. The man was 29 years old and the boy only 11. The arrest report says that the man claimed that the mother of the boy had given him permission to perform such acts, and told the woman that he, therefore, would not be going to jail. However, the boy’s mother says that is absolutely not true. The 29-year-old man was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation, as well as other charges. He is being held in jail with no bond. While the mother refuted the man’s claim that she gave him permission to act inappropriately with her son, she apparently did know the man and allowed him to be present around her son. She allegedly told investigators that had she known what was going on, she would not have permitted her son to be near the man. She appeared to be appalled by the reported acts. No information was provided as to whether this man has any previous history of sexual misconduct. Those who are charged with sex offenses, such as molestation charges, have rights, just like everyone else who is charged with a crime. Criminal defense attorneys work diligently to protect their clients’ rights, including the right to a fair and unbiased trial. Source: Wesh Orlando, “PD: Man arrested after ‘making out’ with child at school bus stop” Bob Kealing, Mar. 05, 2014

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Seminole County Sex Sting…Again

Seems like every other month law enforcement is conducting another undercover child-sex sting operation.  This occurs so often you would think that the police are making money off these cases.  Well they are, or at least obtaining money to run these programs.  This time it was conducted in Seminole County and 26 men were arrested in “operation safenet”. As we have said in previous posts, nobody wants children to get hurt.  Nobody wants children to be molested.  No one is advocating any type of sexual abuse of children.  However, it has been my experiene that these type of cases originate with men on adults only dating websites.  They are responding to advertisements or personal ads that indicate that the person is 18 years of age or older. These “to catch a predator” type sting operations are catching many people that have never been in trouble before.  Most of the time they are not arresting prior sex offenders, but are catching men that but-for the government’s action would most likely never be in these situations. It is important that our children are protected.  Child sexual abusers need to be prosecuted.  However it is important that our government is not just catching people who fell for their ruse.

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Florida lawmakers seek to reform the state’s sex offender laws

We noted a few months ago that some Florida lawmakers have vocalized that reforming the state’s sex offender laws is going to be a priority for them during the 2014 legislative session. It seems that many more have jumped on this legislative bandwagon. Specifically, many Florida lawmakers are concerned that too many individuals convicted of sex crimes are reoffending once they have been released from custody. Preventing convicted felons from reoffending is certainly an understandable public safety priority. However, it is important that lawmakers keep in mind that the majority of sex offenders do not reoffend once released. As a result, it is important that any legal reforms that elected officials seek to make do not unduly punish or affect the lives of sex offenders at low-risk of reoffending once they are released. Various Florida House and Senate panels have already passed various bills related to sex offenders, even though the legislative session does not technically begin until March fourth. Among those bills passed by various panels are ones that would require sex offenders to provide law enforcement with more personal information once they are no longer in custody, bills that would require all sex offenders to undergo community supervision after leaving prison and ones that would keep offenders imprisoned for longer. None of these bills seems to take into account that low-level offenders characterized as unlikely to reoffend after release should be left in peace to pick up the pieces of their lives as best they can. Hopefully final versions of these bills will better reflect this reality. Source: WTSP, “Florida lawmakes hope to tighten loopholes in sex offender laws,” Feb. 18, 2014

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Full and fractional liability for child pornography possession

The case of a woman named Amy may help to set the stage for the kinds of restitution that individuals convicted of possessing child pornography could be required to pay victims. This month, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the Amy case. Amy was sexually assaulted by her uncle when she was a child. The images that her uncle produced and distributed are some of the most popular child pornography images in the world. What is not disputed in this case is that what happened to Amy is a terrible fate for any child. She understandably insists that the proliferation of images documenting her abuse haunt her. She noted in a victim impact statement taken in 2008 that, “It is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some kind of sick enjoyment from it. It’s like I am being abused over and over and over again.” What is disputed in this case is how much any one individual convicted of possessing images of Amy’s abuse should be required to pay her. The precedent set in this full versus fractional liability case could impact countless other child pornography possession cases in the future, whether or not the images in those cases are of Amy. In essence, the Supreme Court will be determining whether one individual convicted of possessing images of Amy could be held liable for the total amount of restitution owed her under victim compensation laws as calculated by how many individuals have been convicted of offenses related to images of her. According to the New York Times, Amy’s images have factored into more than 3,000 cases so far. Victims of child sexual abuse should be able to seek proper restitution. However, no one single possessor of a child’s images should be held liable for the thousands of other individuals who also possess those same images. Hopefully the Supreme Court will recognize the injustice in trying to hold one individual accountable for the fault of thousands. Source: The New York Times, “Allocating Liability for Child Pornography, in Full or Fractional Shares,” Adam Liptak, Dec. 2, 2013

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Online prostitution sting in Florida results in 80 arrests

If an individual is charged with prostitution or soliciting prostitution in Florida, he or she faces the possibility of criminal consequences if there is a conviction, in addition to the likelihood of personal and professional repercussions. After a recent online prostitution sting by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 80 people now face this possibility. Local deputies conducted the operation between Dec. 12 and 15. Detectives used websites such as Backpage.com to lure the accused to a hotel where the sting operation had been set up. In a press conference the day after the sting ended, the sheriff focused on 22 of the accused, who receive some form of federal assistance. He wanted to make people aware that the accused were allegedly using taxpayer dollars to participate in prostitution activities. Among those arrested was a 16-year-old whom detectives suspect is a victim of human trafficking. She is charged with prostitution along with 32 others. Twenty-four of the accused face charges of solicitation. Thirteen are accused of aiding and abetting or profiting from prostitution. According to reports, the accused have almost 400 prior criminal charges between them. Given the media attention this prostitution sting has received, it may be difficult for the accused to get a fair hearing. However, in Florida, as with anywhere else in the nation, they all have the right to be presumed innocent unless or until they are found guilty. Each of them may benefit from obtaining representation that will defend their legal rights as they work out the best strategy for reaching a fair outcome. Source: The Ledger, Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies Arrest 80 Suspects in Prostitution Sting, Miles Parks, Dec. 16, 2013

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Florida cases grapple with important sex crime issue

Recent cases filed in Florida court ask important questions about a seemingly straightforward sex crime law. In the majority of states, including Florida, it is considered a sex crime to have sexual intercourse with a partner if you have a sexually transmitted disease and have not disclosed this information to your sexual partner. This law seems fairly straightforward at first glance. However, a recent case involving an HIV-positive woman who did not disclose her disease to her female partner has suddenly made the law potentially more complex. An appellate court threw out the criminal case against the HIV-positive woman, citing the rationale that the statute intends for sexual intercourse to mean a physical union between a man and a woman. Another criminal case involving an HIV-positive man who had a physical relationship with a male partner was upheld by a different Florida appellate court due to its broad interpretation of what it means to have sexual intercourse. As a result of these conflicting appellate opinions, the Florida Supreme Court will likely be compelled to rule one way or another on the meaning of sexual intercourse as applied in this particular statute. Until this issue is fully resolved, same-sex sexual relationships affected by this criminal law will likely continue to be decided in inconsistent and conflicting ways. If you are charged with a sex crime involving failure to inform your partner about a sexually transmitted disease, please contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate the inconsistent interpretations of this particular Florida law. Source: Miami Herald, “HIV-disclosure law sparks unique legal battle in Florida,” David Ovalle, Nov. 18, 2013

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Another Sex Sting in Osceola County

Law enforcement conducted yet another undercover child-sex sting operation in Osceola County.  The obvious hope is to arrest would be child molesters and abusers.  The people who were caught up the sting will most likely be arrested for charges of traveling to meet a minor or solicitation of a minor. Let’s be clear nobody wants children to get hurt or be molested and nobody is advocating the sexual abuse of children.  However in many of these operations the police are on adults only websites and they are “catching” people who have never been in trouble.  This is not to say that child abusers must have a record and clearly there is a first time for everything but if you look deeper into these operations and these statutes you are seeing that these crimes are mostly if not almost exclusively government created.  In a previous article we have discussed some of the methodology used by law enforcement. What exactly am I saying?  Well in a prior case that we were defending we did a public records request for every arrest for traveling to meet a minor and solicitation of a minor cases.  We found that there were only a handful of actual cases in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties.  These are primarily government or law enforcement created crimes There is a lot of federal money out there for these type of cases and local law enforcement is very willing to conduct these sting to secure their share of that money. It is important to protect our children, but it is equally important to ensure that those who are arrested have their rights protected.

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Sex Crimes Operation “e-Guardian” arrests 15

Law enforcement sex crimes units just announced 25 arrests for traveling to meet a minor in the Tampa area. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) combined forces with the Department of Homeland security, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Statewide Prosecution and the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. FDLE is reporting that the majority of those accused have been arrested and charged with online solicitation of a minor for sex, traveling to meet a minor for sex, sending harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of two-way device. If the accused are convicted as charged, they are facing significant prison time and the requirements of a registered sex offender. We have seen these stings pop up across central Florida over the past couple of years including in Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Lake Counties. This latest operation headed by FDLE nicknamed “Operation e-Guardian” was the first of its kind with FDLE in charge of the operation. The operation e-Guardian would set up listings on several locations across the web including chat rooms, dating sites, social networks, and online classified ads like Craigslist and Backpages.com. These types of operations are typically in place at a private residence and will be in place for about 5 days. The sex crimes agents would receive an inquiry from a listing soliciting sex with a minor and then instant message, text or even email the suspect to start the process. The Agents must establish the age of the minor and make it clear the child’s intentions of having sex with the adult. Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee states, “It is critical that we conduct operations such as Operation e-Guardian as part of a multi-faceted approach to ensure the children in our community are protected from these individuals who are out to sexually exploit minors. A strong message needs to be sent to these offenders that this behavior will not be tolerated and if they commit acts such as this, they will be arrested and placed in jail.”

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