Dear Members and Advocates,
When I started fielding some FAC member calls a number of years back, I remember the first call I received from someone caught in an online sting. The person was on Craigslist’s personals when he met someone who said she was in her twenties, they communicated back and forth, conversations became sexual, she mentioned she has a 14 year old sister, and the next thing he knew he was arrested, their conversations were presented out of order and out of context to make it seem as though he was interested in the sister, he plead to something that netted probation and he’s now on the registry for life. I also remember thinking to myself, “yeah right!” That stuff can’t happen and if he were so innocent, why didn’t he fight the charges? Anyhow, my place wasn’t to judge, we’re here to help with registry issues, not underlying criminal cases, so if he didn’t want to be candid about the reason he’s on the registry, it didn’t really matter. So I thought…
I started fielding more calls from people with online sting cases and many were telling me the same thing. They were on an adult dating site looking to meet an adult and after conversations started flowing and things had turned sexual (usually at the initiation of the other person) a “minor” gets thrown into the mix. Some, from the pictures and the tone of the chats, believed the person wasn’t a minor. Some thought this was part of a “role playing” game the other was into. Some went along with the fictional “daughter” or “sister” situation in the hopes they could still get with the fictional adult. And some became so vested in the relationship and persuaded by the persistence of the other person, that they were coerced into something they never would have considered in the first place.
With the first few, I thought these “sting” guys were a bit delusional. But after I heard the same story, over and over and over, from multiple people who had no possibility of coordinating, I realized there was a lot more to these stings than I, or the general public, knew. There were other things that made no sense to me. Why would these people be going on adult dating apps or personals sites to meet children? If they are looking to meet kids, wouldn’t their odds be better going where kids hang out? Also, who in the world hasn’t seen “To Catch a Predator”? Are there really dozens of clueless people in a single community doing this each weekend or is there a bit of manufacturing going on to entrap so many people?
Around 2013 I was introduced to Trey Gennette. Trey appealed his case to Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal where his conviction was overturned. After reading the logs of the conversations he was apparently having with the undercover detectives, the Court concluded that it was the detectives who were leading the conversation. In their opinion they wrote, “The law does not tolerate government action to provoke a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime in order to prosecute him or her with that crime.” The facts in his case were like a playbook of the stories I had heard from literally dozens of people. So with this happening in SO MANY of these cases, why were there so few fighting their charges?
The sad reality is that many people can’t afford a good defense and even those who could, would rather take a plea than risk the years in prison they are threatened with. Most were unaware of how awful the registry would be, and had they known then what they know now, would have probably rolled the dice. The other reality is that an arrest for this type of crime is immediately life altering. You don’t wake up the next morning and walk into work as if nothing happened. It’s not like you get a DUI and continue representing municipalities in Tallahassee. The mere accusation of “soliciting a minor” will instantly destroy an individual’s life, career and family, even if ultimately acquitted. I have yet to see a press conference where Sheriff Grady Judd is standing in front of a poster board containing professional head-shots saying, “I applaud these brave men for standing up against false accusations and demonstrating the principle that we are all innocent until proven guilty.” It’ll never happen!
I’m not suggesting there are not dangerous predators out there, but I’m certainly suggesting that in fishing for whales, the police are catching a lot of minnows in their net. I’m also not suggesting that law enforcement has no place monitoring cyberspace for actual crimes, they just don’t need to be out there manufacturing crimes where they never would have existed.
Last week some brave members went on the Dr. Phil show to share their experience and they, along with a criminal defense attorney who has defended many in these stings, will be speaking on next month’s member call on January 7th. We are encouraging others who have experienced these stings to come out of hiding and start exposing what’s really going on. Not all will want the attention and we understand people wanting to protect their families from any further humiliation, but it’s so important to educate the public. People need to know that the majority of these men are not online grooming children, but in too many cases, it’s law enforcement grooming them.
The Florida Action Committee
Dec 17 Thursday- 7:00 pm ET – Fearless Group – Peer-led support group. Phone 727-731-2927. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
Dec 24 Thursday-4:00pm to 10:00pm ET – FAC County Coordinators, Fearless Leaders, volunteers, and other elves will be hosting a virtual Christmas Eve gathering for those who want to talk, share stories, entertain, or just be festive and merry! Don’t be alone for the holiday, be with your FAC friends. Phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
Jan 7 Thursday – 8:00pm ET – Monthly Membership Call. Topic: Truth About Stings Operations – Guests: Kathleen Hambrick and Aracely Yates of C.A.G.E. (www.cage.fyi), and Peter Aiken, Criminal Defense Attorney. Phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
Jan 9 – Saturday – 11:00 am to 1:00 pm.- Zoom session for family and loved ones only (no registered citizens) . RSVP for details to [email protected] or text name to 904-452-8322.
Jan 14 Thursday at 8:00pm ET / 7pm CT – New Member Orientation Call – phone 319-527-3487. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
SOME HEADLINES FROM THE WEEK
Two federal prison inmates and the estate of a third are suing the government, claiming officials at a Monroe County lockup failed to prevent a 2019 attack on the sex offenders, one of whom was stomped and stabbed to death. Christian Maire, Michal Figura and Craig…
The Louisiana Attorney General is asking the Supreme Court of the United States to stay the decision of its state supreme court which struck down the Louisiana Law requiring the branding of driver’s licenses of persons required to register as sex offenders with the…
We received an email from an attorney requesting we remove a certain post from our website. The post concerned Broward Sex Crimes Prosecutor Stacey Honowitz’s arrest for shoplifting at a Publix Supermarket in 2018. The removal request appears below: Good Day, I hope…
CORRECTION: The 9th Circuit reversed a lower court’s dismissal on ex post facto grounds. In essence, they are telling the district court they were wrong in dismissing the case and it has been remanded. From the opinion, “Appellants, 134 men and women registered as sex…