If you have been paying attention to the local news lately, you will have noticed a sudden uptick in the number of sex crimes arrests stemming from undercover investigations of people's online activities. The Canadian County Sheriff's Office in particular has been conducting a number of online stings intended to catch men and women they consider to be child predators, and last week was no exception for the agency.
Last Wednesday, Canadian County sheriff's deputies arrested a 22-year-old Oklahoma City man after they say he engaged in sexually explicit conversation with two deputies posing online as 14-year-old girls. They say he also attempted to arrange group sex with one of the decoy officers and "her" 12-year-old friend.
Reports say that on August 4, Aaron Felde, 22, sent a Facebook friend request to a fake Facebook profile investigators set up purporting to be that of a 14-year-old girl. Investigators say that the conversation between the suspect and the girl quickly became sexual, and that the man even asked the "girl" to invite a pre-teen friend along to join them for group sex.
Investigators say that the very next day, a second deputy--also using a fake Facebook profile purporting to be a 14-year-old girl--sent a message to Felde via the social network. Again, they say, the suspect turned the conversation sexual, and tried to arrange group sex with that "girl" and her 13-year-old cousin.
Deputies showed up at Felde's home later that afternoon to arrest him. They say that he cooperated with their investigation by turning over his laptop computer to them and by confessing to the crimes. They arrested him on two complaints of Soliciting Sexual Conduct or Communication with a Minor by Use of Technology (21 O.S. § 1040.13a). Online solicitation of a minor is a felony sex crime punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and 25 years of sex offender registration.
Before anyone becomes involved in a Facebook conversation or internet chat with someone under the age of 16 in Oklahoma, it is critical to remember not only the risks of becoming involved with a minor, but also the likelihood that the "minor" at the other end of the connection may be a law enforcement investigator. In Oklahoma, it is not a defense to sex crime charges that the "victim" is not a minor at all, but rather an adult. Under state law, it is a felony to solicit a minor "or anyone the person believes to be a minor."
Another thing to keep in mind if a person gets caught in a sting is that you should never speak to investigators without your attorney. While you may feel that the law will be easier on you if you cooperate by confessing or turning over your laptop, it is better to protect your right to remain silent, to insist upon a lawyer, and to require law officers to obtain a warrant to search for and seize any equipment.