A Florida puppeteer who entertained children at birthday parties and school events was recently arrested for an Internet sex crime.
Federal agents discovered the man had been chatting online with child pornography suspects about kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering children. Authorities also found a CD full of photographs showing dead children and kids posed in bondage scenarios when they searched the man's home. The man has been charged with conspiring to kidnap a child and possession of child pornography.
Technically, authorities do not have any evidence that the man ever harmed a child. In fact, the man claims that his online activity represented only a fantasy, and that he could never hurt anyone. The man has also worked with children for some time, with no reports of harm. For that reason, it may seem extreme that the man is now facing a potential felony conviction and years in prison.
However, Florida law defines a sex offender as any person convicted of committing, attempting, conspiring or soliciting to commit any of an enumerated list of sex crimes. Therefore, the man might be found liable if a jury agrees he was conspiring to commit the alleged crimes.
Under traditional conspiracy law, 2 or more people must have reached an agreement to commit a crime. In this case, local authorities may hope the man's online conversations and participation in online chat rooms with child pornographers will satisfy that definition. Whereas possession of child pornography typically carries a maximum sentence of 5 years, the additional conspiracy charge might increase the man's sentencing two-fold. In addition to a potential conviction and prison time, the man may also have to register as a sex offender or sex predator. Those classifications require registering either 2 or 4 times throughout a year.
Source: Huffington Post, "Ronald Brown, Puppeteer, Planned To Rape, Kill, Eat Children: Florida Police," Andy Campbell, July 24, 2012
· Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Internet sex crimes page.