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Criminal defense counsel may claim entrapment in officer's case

Authorities in Pennsylvania regularly monitor the internet for predators seeking sexual contact with minors. The police don't have to look too far when a potential violator places explicit ads on a popular online service. If the suspect agrees to meet a purported minor for sexual contact, and arrives for a designated meeting, the individual will be arrested and in immediate need of criminal defense representation.

Pennsylvania state investigators don't expect such salacious advertising to be placed by one of their own. Recently, however, red flags went off when a man advertised online that he was a dominant male police officer looking for a submissive playmate. When someone purporting to be a 14-year-old girl responded to the ad, the suspect allegedly did not retreat but instead encouraged her to get together for an illicit meeting.

When the 40-year-old Police Chief of Leechburg, a small Western Pennsylvania town, showed up for the meeting with the intended eighth-grader, fellow law enforcement officers instead greeted and arrested him on several sexual offenses. The charges included unlawful contact with a minor related to sexual offenses and attempted deviate sexual intercourse. He remains incarcerated in lieu of $500,000 bail.

The case will garner extra notoriety because the Chief lost his arm in a fireworks mishap a year ago. He became a local celebrity by marrying his fiancé in a televised ceremony honoring the heroes who saved him. According to police, the suspect's ad welcomed women of any "age, race or status" to apply. Police say that he gave a full confession when confronted.

Such prosecutions may be problematic when the purported victim was not in fact an underage female. Can a crime that prohibits meeting a minor for sexual contact be committed in Pennsylvania when the so-called victim was not a minor at all and no contact with a minor ever occurred? Criminal defense counsel may choose to pursue that defense along with an entrapment claim. Such theories can also be effective when bargaining for a plea agreement. The man's trauma last year may have triggered mental and emotional symptoms that can also be asserted in mitigation.

Source: wyff4.com, "Pennsylvania police chief arrested in undercover child sex sting", Holly Yan and Shawn Nottingham Pennsylvania, Jan. 7, 2018

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