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Already in the area visiting relatives, Terry arrived to meet his date three hours after he began an online dialogue with a detective posing as an underage girl.He had used a Web camera to send video of himself masturbating and asked to meet for sex, saying he would bring marijuana for the "girl." He brought 22 ounces.Although Louisiana's age of consent is 17, the law lets somebody charged with computer-aided solicitation of a minor argue that the chat is consensual if the "victim" is at least 16 years old.But that right is not available if the person at the other end of the computer is an investigator.In reality, his date was a special agent with the attorney general's office.Baum argued that the online solicitation law violated Hatton's constitutional rights to equal protection and to present a defense in court.(Download text of law.)Four months after the law was enacted, Sharon was arrested on that charge.
Since then, the Kenner Police Department has arrested 49 more men in a program so successful that dozens of other Louisiana law enforcement agencies are launching similar efforts.The other six men who pleaded guilty received an average of 27 months of probation but no prison time.A closer look at the cases shows that sentences can depend on the circumstances, such as whether the defendants sent sexually explicit photos over the Internet or traveled to meet the "girl" for sex, or whether computer-aided solicitation was the only offense."It depends on the mitigating circumstances," Kenner detective Brian Mc Gregor said."I have seen the chat logs when law enforcement has been aggressive," he said.But Johnson, of the attorney general's office, said investigators are careful to avoid entrapment by letting the offender lead the online conversation."We just kind of have to sit back and be the innocent little 13-year-old, and all the sexual solicitation has to come from them," he said.
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The Louisiana attorney general's office has been operating similar undercover stings and teaching local officers the procedures since the Legislature made computer-aided solicitation a crime.