Acquittals, Appeals, and Hope
Not all cases end up in jail or prison. Some get acquitted (Not Guilty), some get a hung jury, others fight during an appeal and some get charges reduced or dismissed early on.
Different jurisdictions come down harder than others. I’ve seen probation and suspended sentences all the way up to some jail time to 5+ years in prison for being caught up in these sting operations. Even with no prior convictions people have gotten between 5-10 years prison time.
Many of these cases do NOT go to trial and end up pleading out. Some statistics out of Florida showed that out of 608 cases/entries there were 47 trials (7.73%) with 38 guilty and 9 not guilty verdicts. The general conclusion I drew from this is about 19-20% of cases going to trial won. These are not great odds but may worth pursuing with a good lawyer.
Though it can be hard to prove and most courts don’t accept the Entrapment defense that is what these cases really are. For entrapment one would need to prove (depending on jurisdiction) “that the police conduct would illegitimately ensnare normally law-abiding individuals in an illegal conversation they would not have otherwise pursued.” Could the conduct of the police induce a law-abiding person to commit these type of acts? To me the fact that SO MANY people, especially those with no priors, get caught up in this answers this question with a resounding YES.
Below are cases I found which offer Hope:
- 1998 April: Utah man acquitted by a jury. He was invited by the children’s mother. Hey, these things have been going on a long time!
- 2010 December: Attorney Obtains Acquittal in Sex-Sting Case – In Minnesota.
- 2011 August: ‘Dateline: To Catch a Predator’ Case Ends in Acquittal – Captured in 2006 in California. Only case that went to trial in this sting, the other 28 plead guilty! He was kicked out of the Navy and spent a year in jail. Press Democrat link.
- 2012 April: Court overturns conviction in Craigslist sex sting – Appellate court overturned, allowed for new trial. Original sentence was 5 years probation and registration as sex offender for life. Unknown if retried?
- 2012 December: Charges Dismissed Against Former Child Sex Crimes Prosecutor For Lack Of Actual Minor In FBI Sting – Interesting article about lawyer getting captured and fighting the system in Alabama; no child = no charge. On further reading of the case, I believe they closed the door/loophole he used.
- 2013 November: Man Acquitted in TallyOp Internet Sex Sting – Argued it was law enforcement officers who did the “enticing, soliciting and luring” in Florida. Called him 3x after he stopped texting.
- 2014 January: Sex sting raises entrapment issues – A case in Florida, posting on Craigslist.
- 2014 April: Third man acquitted of child enticement charges – From a 2013 case in Mississippi. Posting on a dating site.
- 2014 September: Man acquitted of sex charges explains high price of justice system – Acquitted in Montana.
- 2015 Feb: Boseman dismissing of sex sting case – A judge in Boseman, MT dismissed a case just prior to trial due to rights of privacy and not obtaining a warrant. Interactions were done via Facebook back in 2013.
- 2015 July: Colorado man wants apology from police after arrest in child sex sting – Caught in Operation Broken Heart in April, 2015. One of 9 arrested.
- 2016 April: Charges Dismissed – A Minneapolis man got case dismissed for lack of probable cause.
- 2016 May: Operation Mayday defendant acquitted – Georgia sting in May of 2015. Person never went to door of home. Never left vehicle and was arrested as he drove away. Several of those charged were sentenced to 7-8 years in prison.
- 2016 September: A Child Sex Crime Sting that Did Not Work – Out of New York.
- 2016 December: Outrageous Conduct – A Mount Vernon, Washington sting operation case was dismissed from 2014. Was one of six men caught in sting operation. Case was only second case in Washington State to get dismissed due to outrageous government conduct. Prosecutor appealed this case and the Court of Appeals upheld the Trail Courts decision. Read a TechDirt Article about this outrageous Craigslist Sex Sting Operation.
- 2017 February: Conviction overturned – A dentist in Maryland had his conviction overturned on appeal.
- 2017 May: Navy officer cleared of attempted teen sex-assault charges by military jury – Sting operation of out Japan.
- 2017 September: Guardian Angel Sting. A case in Minneapolis returned a not guilty verdict to a sting operation.
- 2018 February: Federal Jury acquitted Auburn man. A case in Georgia finds 26 year old man Not Guilty. Another guy in same sting operation was found Guilty by Federal Jury just a few days later.
- 2018 June: Texas man found not guilty in solicitation of a minor (sting operation).
- 2018 August: Macon Man Acquitted. Another case in Georgia from 2015 where they captured and initially charged 12 people. This 27 year old man was acquitted–he showed up at hotel, waited 15-20 minutes then left. They captured him when he left. This was a Craiglist mom and daughter sting operation. He did not take the stand. “He withdrew; they pursued” the attorney stated. Jury agreed and acquitted.
- 2018 November: Not an Acquittal but close. This 22 year-old man was caught in a stepfather daughter sting operation out of New York. He went to trial and lost and during sentencing was credited with time served and probation instead of four years or more.
- 2019 January: A Net Nanny Appeal in Washington State resulted in two of three charges being reversed. It will go down to the lower court and dismissed or retried with allowance of the Entrapment defense. This is a BIG WIN with respect to the Net Nanny sting operations going on in Washington State.
These articles are based on a quick Google search on “sex sting acquittal” and “child sex sting dismissed.” I dived about 5-6 pages deep. I suspect there are others, not every case is publicized (thank goodness). Most of these seem to have a good/reasonable defense (not going to door, conversation was aggressive by officers, outrageous conduct, etc.).