Email, Cellphone Evidence Key in Florida Sex Crime Cases

Electronic evidence like emails and text messages are often at the center of Florida sex crime cases. A recent federal case out of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is a good example of how that evidence often comes into play.

In 2015, an FBI agent responded to a Craigslist ad posted by the defendant. The ad allegedly used code words indicating that he was looking to have sex with young children. The agent posed as the father of a 10-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl. The defendant expressed an interest in having sex with the kids during a series of subsequent email exchanges, according to the court. He later confirmed that interest in a recorded phone call. He was arrested after driving to the place where he and the agent had agreed to meet.He consented to having his email and cellphone searched, along with his car. He also agreed to allow officers to assume his online identity. He admitted to posting several ads soliciting sex with children. He also acknowledged that he had agreed with the agent to meet for the purpose of having sex with a minor. A search of his cellphone turned up all of the emails with the FBI agent. He additionally told the cops that he had communicated with another person about having sex with the man’s 12-year-old child four years earlier. Those communications eventually ended when the man stopped responding, he told the police.

The defendant was charged with the federal sex crime of using interstate commerce to attempt to persuade a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity. He said he was entrapped by police. He argued at trial that the statements he made to the police about the communications with another person four years earlier should not be included in the evidence against him. He also argued for a mistrial when the FBI agent testified at trial that he’d found other emails on the defendant’s phone related to underage sex and that the prosecutors had not turned those emails over to his attorney during the discovery process. The trial judge disagreed. The defendant was eventually convicted.

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Eleventh Circuit said the government’s error in failing to turn over the undisclosed emails didn’t warrant overturning the conviction. Even without the emails, the court said there was ample evidence to show that the defendant may have been predisposed to commit the crime. That evidence negated his entrapment defense, according to the court. It also noted that “[the defendant] himself presumably knew about the existence of these other e-mails because they were in his own e-mail account.”

If you or a loved one has been charged with statutory rape or a related sex crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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