Local News

November 26, 2012

Entrapment or crime prevention?


Judging morality?

Metcalf’s story isn’t the type to typically cause juries of men and women who lead clean lives to immediately offer sympathy and understanding. Instead, it’s fraught with behavior that, even if not criminal, is at best often considered controversial and taboo.

So far, no person arrested in a sting by the local task force has been found not guilty, but there are plenty of legal analysts who challenge the practice of arresting people for allegedly attempting a crime on non-existent “victims.” Among them are Atlanta attorney McNeill Stokes, who said he has represented numerous clients charged in task force stings and filed several requests before the U.S. Supreme Court and Georgia Supreme Court seeking the justices to rule on the constitutionality of the techniques used to catch alleged perpetrators.

The scenarios undercover officers make up often involve the officer initially posing as an adult on an adults-only site where the officer only later reveals to the person that he or she is actually underage but wants to meet up anyhow, Stokes said. Law enforcement officials say any law-abiding person would walk away from the relationship at that point. Stokes says authorities shouldn’t ask someone to break the law in the first place.

“They’re just entrapping citizens,” he said. “There are no victims. It’s all fiction, and they’re all created crimes, alleged crimes.”

Stokes said he’s represented several clients who were considered upstanding citizens before their arrests — a Navy SEAL, an Airborne Ranger, businessmen. As of about a year ago, some 120 people had been charged in Catoosa County alone for crimes brought by the task force, he said. Two of his clients, he said, tried to commit suicide after they were charged, and one succeeded.

Juries tend to go along with prosecutors at least partly because of the nature of the conversations that take place online, he added. In many cases, people reveal in unabashed detail their sexual fantasies and desires, he said, and juries in some cases find themselves judging someone’s morality rather than whether they committed the crimes of which they’re accused. Role-playing is especially common among gay men looking online for other gay men, he said.

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