An arrest for online solicitation of a minor awaited a 37-year-old Charlotte man at his destination, rather than the 14-year-old girl that police accuse him of expecting. An online sex crimes sting involving a detective casting him or herself as a minor trapped Edward Patella and landed him in the Randolph County jail.
Internet stings, made into something that most people understand through Dateline NBC’s “To Catch A Predator,” are a popular tool for law enforcement to ‘root out’ potential sex offenders in a community. These stings are conducted under the auspices of protecting children but often do more to punish a person who otherwise may not have acted on any sexual desires that have been deemed illegal.
Is It Entrapment?
In most online sex stings, entrapment is not an applicable defense. Law enforcement is allowed to entice an adult into committing an online sex crime but law enforcement cannot overcome the free will of the other person and force him or her to commit a sex crime. Enticement is the key; the police can lead you to the proverbial water and that’s ok, but they can’t make you drink – that would be entrapment.
This is not cut-and-dry, however. An experienced sex crimes defense attorney can examine the facts of the case and determine whether entrapment is an appropriate defense in an online solicitation case. Important questions to consider may include:
- Did the police initiate contact?
- Did the police suggest an in-person meeting?
- Did the police turn the conversation from neutral to sexual content?
One thing is certain, a sex crimes case involving a minor even when that minor is a police officer posing as an underage victim, can have serious and immediate consequences. If you have been charged with online solicitation, you should consult a defense attorney right away.
Source: WSOCTV, “Charlotte man charged in online sex sting,” June 28, 2013