A man who dressed as Santa and played the friendly Christmas icon at malls across North Carolina was sentenced on sexual exploitation and solicitation charges. Seventy-year-old John Peters, of Cary, was sentenced to three years in prison and must register as a sex offender after completing his sentence.
Peters was arrested twice on sex offense charges - once in January and again in March. He had either met up with a teen or had planned to meet up with a teen that he engaged with via Facebook. Peters was allegedly telling teens that he was a photographer looking for models in order to encourage them to meet with him.
In North Carolina, a person can be found guilty of solicitation of a minor via the internet if:
- The minor is under 16 years old
- The alleged offender is 16 years old or older
- The alleged offender is at least five years older than the child being solicited
- The minor is encouraged to meet the alleged offender to commit a sex act
The consent of the child is not a defense to internet crimes involving child solicitation. Soliciting a minor over the internet is a Class H felony. If the alleged offender actually shows up at the meeting spot, the crime is increased to a Class G felony.
Minimum punishments for North Carolina felony sex offenses depend on the actual conviction and any prior history of the offender. A Class H felony is typically punished by five to six months in prison while a Class G felony usually means 10-13 months in prison. Multiple counts can mean multiple consecutive or concurrent sentences.
Source: WECT, "NC Santa man sentenced on solicitation charges," September 30, 2012
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