Two other suspects were also arrested during the child sex trafficking sting, which was conducted by authorities in Texarkana, Texas. That city is on the border of Texas and Arkansas and is a twin city to the adjacent Texarkana, Arkansas, on the Arkansas side of the states’ border.
Texarkana Texas Police Department officers provided details of the 2-day sting operation in a post on Facebook.
The process began when officers posted a fake ad on a website known for providing prostitution services, and several men responded.
According to The Daily Mail, the 31-year-old cop was arrested after he tried to meet in person with someone whom he believed to be an underage girl for the purpose of having sex.
In reality, when he and others initially engaged online with that person, it was not an underage girl but instead an undercover officer who was posing as an underage girl.
“Even though the ‘girl’ told each of them that she talked to that she was underage, each of the three men still wanted to come meet up with her and offered to pay her for sex,” Texarkana Texas police said. “When the guys showed up and knocked, they were shocked when several police officers answered the door instead of the young girl they were expecting.”
Prostitution stings are increasingly common in Houston and throughout Texas. Learn what you can do to protect your rights if you get arrested.
Cop is fired immediately after his arrest
According to the New York Post, the policeman who was arrested had grown up in the area and had been an officer for the Texarkana Arkansas Police Department since 2016. That police department conveyed to Fox News Digital that he was immediately terminated after the department learned of his arrest.
The policeman had claimed in a post on Facebook last February that he became a police officer to make a difference in the community.
“I have always wanted to be that officer that is able to communicate with the public and be comfortable while doing so,” he wrote at that time. “I like that I stand in the gap and be the one that our young people can come and talk to.”
Two other suspects face multiple charges
As for the additional 2 suspects, one man, 33, was charged with online solicitation of a minor as well as delivery of marijuana. His bond was set at $85,000.
The other man, 37, was charged with online solicitation of a minor, delivery of a controlled substance, resisting arrest and evading arrest. He also was charged with abandoning/endangering a child with intent to return and possession of a controlled substance. Bond has not been set for him.
The Texarkana Texas Police Department thanked investigators with the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI and the Texas Department of Public Safety for assisting in the operation. (Bowie County is in Texas and is home to Texarkana, Texas.)
What are Texas punishments for online solicitation of a minor?
The severity of the punishment for online solicitation in Texas depends, in part, on the age of the alleged victim.
Online solicitation of a minor (a person under the age of 17) is a third-degree felony under Texas law on computer crimes. Persons convicted of that Texas sex crime face possible punishments that include spending 2 to 10 years in a state prison and being fined as much as $10,000.
In addition, upon release from prison, the convicted person must register as a sex offender.
The online solicitation sex crime becomes a second-degree felony (even worse than a third-degree felony) if the alleged victim was under 14 years of age or was someone whom the suspect believed to be under 14 years of age at the time of the offense.
Possible punishments for a second-degree felony in Texas include a sentence of 2 to 20 years in a state prison and a fine of up to $10,000, as well as having to register as a sex offender upon release from prison.
Not everyone in a sting operation is guilty
While online solicitation of a minor is a serious offense and a serious charge, it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone who is swept up in the broad net of an online sting operation is guilty of such a sex crime.
In fact, dozens of persons in Harris County (home county of Houston), Fort Bend County (home county of Sugar Land) and Montgomery County (home county of The Woodlands) had their convictions for online solicitation of a minor vacated (withdrawn) in 2021.
That came after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin—the court of last resort for criminal matters in Texas—ruled that Texas’s law on online solicitation of a minor was unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.
The appeals court ruled that the state law was too broad and did not properly identify “sexually explicit communications.” The court also ruled that the state’s law on computer crimes included prohibitions against fantasy sex talk that were in conflict with Americans’ right to free speech under the First Amendment.
The law has since been amended in order to be constitutional.
Defenses against an online solicitation charge
These include asserting that the defendant was a victim of illegal “entrapment” by law officers who prodded or coerced the defendant into doing something that they ordinarily would not have done.
In the case of first-time offenders with no previous record of such a crime, it also can be argued that the defendant had shown no prior disposition to commit such a crime.
In some cases, it also can be argued as a legal defense that the defendant was not more than 3 years older than the minor and that the minor agreed to the conduct.
Get Houston’s best sex crime defense lawyer
If you or a loved one in the Houston area faces an accusation or charge of online solicitation of a minor or another sexual offense, you must get the best sex crime defense lawyer you can find to protect your legal rights.
Contact us today at the Neal Davis Law Firm to arrange a confidential consultation for your case.