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Dating websites putting innocent men in jail

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Published on Aug 15, 2014

This is one of two videos to see PART 2 click here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtzP8...
or go to the "mythofsextrafficking" channel
POLK COUNTY, Florida – In the decade since Chris Hansen and "To Catch a Predator" popularized Internet sex stings, more than 1,200 men in Florida alone have been arrested, accused of preying on underage teens and children for sex.

But as the stings put more and more men behind bars, detectives are working harder and harder to keep up their arrest numbers. And the tactics they're using to put alleged sexual offenders in jail are sweeping up large numbers of law-abiding men, too.

A yearlong investigation by 10 Investigates reveals many of the men whose mugshots have been paraded out by local sheriffs in made-for-TV press conferences were not seeking to meet children online. Instead, they were minding their own business, looking for other adults, when detectives started to groom and convince them to break the law.

While detectives used to post ads suggesting an underage teen or child was available for sex, they now routinely post more innocuous personal ads of adults on traditional dating sites. When men – many of them under 25 with no criminal history - respond, officers switch the bait and typically indicate their age is really 14 or 15 years old. However, sometimes the storyline isn't switched until the men, who were looking for legal love, already start falling for the undercover agent.

According to arrest affidavits inspected by 10 Investigates, law enforcement is also now routinely making first contact with men who have done nothing wrong, responding to their ads on dating sites like PlentyOfFish.com. After men start conversing with what they think are adults, officers change the age they claim to be, but try to convince the men to continue the conversation anyway.

Other examples include undercover officers showing interest in a man, then later introducing the idea of having sex with the undercover's "child." If the men indicate they weren't interested, they were still often arrested for just talking to the adult.

http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/invest...


Critics of the stings, including a number of prominent Tampa Bay law enforcement leaders, tell 10 News the operations make for better press conferences than they do crime fighting. Many of the men who are arrested for sexual predator crimes see little jail time.

But Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, when asked about over-aggressive detectives, instead went on the offensive: "The concern (I have) is that you inflate your investigative reporting to make it glitzy."

Judges have also been very critical of some of the tactics used in the stings, which violate Internet Crimes Against Children guidelines. Among the comments from judges in recent entrapment decisions (case numbers withheld to protect the defendants):

"It was the agent who repeatedly steered the conversation back to sexual activity with a minor."
"The government made a concerted effort to lure him into committing a crime."
"The undercover officer failed to follow the procedures …"
"The law does not tolerate government action to provoke a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime."
The judge in one dismissed case criticized the undercover officer for failing to follow procedures and "the officer controlled the tone, pace and subject matter of online conversation, pushing toward a discussion of sexual activity."

The blurring of legal and ethical lines has led many agencies such as the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, and most of South Florida to focus their cybercrime resources on other areas of online abuse. Instead of conducting "To Catch a Predator"-style stings, they spend their time and effort on areas where there are known victims and children at immediate risk, like child porn and sex trafficking.

But the time- and resource-intensive predator stings are still alive and well in West/Central Florida, operating under the watchful eye of ICAC task force leader Judd.

Grady Judd's 'favorite topic'

Sheriff of Polk County since 2005, Judd has made it clear that targeting sexual predators is his top priority. He called hunting predators his "favorite topic" at a recent predator sting press conference, and he has invited national media outlets along for some of the operations. The predator stings have been featured in three MSNBC specials as well as a recent CNN series.

But Judd has been much less forthcoming when it comes to questions of how detectives lure in their targets and whether innocent men are getting swept up to.

Article link:
http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/invest...
http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/invest...
http://archive.wtsp.com/news/local/st...

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