Posted: Jan 06, 2014 2:23 AM GST Updated: Jan 06, 2014 2:23 AM GST
Sex Sting Backlash
"PENSACOLA, Florida - Two and a half years ago Escambia County deputies arrested 25 men in operation Blue Shepherd. Officials said the men were looking for sex with minors after chatting online. One of those men was TG.
“Once you're labeled a pedophile that sticks with you for an eternity,” says G. He's innocent in the eyes of the law--but his life has ground to a halt. This past fall his guilty plea was thrown out on appeal--the higher court saying investigators were the ones who were talking about sex with a minor--not him--G thought he was chatting with a college age woman. He says he still hasn’t fully recovered.
“For nearly three years now there hasn't been much of an improvement if I wasn't a veteran probably very bleak, probably homeless,” says G. When he’s not at school he spends much of his free time on the computer--fighting back against internet sex stings. He has built a couple of websites dedicated to the cause where he’s working with other men arrested in these stings. In most cases police post ads on adult sites like Craigslist saying they're adults--but once they start one-on-one chats the officer claims he's underage.
“In almost every instance it is the police who are doing the seducing, the alluring and the enticing,” says defense lawyer Peter Aiken. He works in Florida and specializes in defending men arrested in these stings. “The problem with the stings is they're catching 5% of the predators and they're destroying 95% of the lives of innocent men.”
According to G's analysis only a few suspects are caught with child porn. Opponents say the stings are motivated in part by the good PR they generate and also money. There’s money from cars seized from suspects and federal funding they get from the Internet Crimes Against Children division of the Department of Justice. G and others argue some police are violating the rules set out by the feds when it comes to sex stings.
“What we want to happen in Florida is the same thing that's happened in Georgia, we want the stings down, we want them investigated and to find the violations,” says G."