Georgia high court asked to uphold tactic to capture sex predators

ATLANTA -- Prosecutors want the the Supreme Court to preserve a tactic used in capturing adults who seek to solicit sex from children online.

On Monday they asked the seven justices to overturn a decision by the Court of Appeals that sided with Dennis Cosmo, a man convicted in 2012 of online child solicitation in northwest Georgia’s Catoosa County. The Appeals Court agreed with Cosmo’s lawyer who argued that the man never had contact with a child and so couldn’t be convicted under the wording of Georgia’s law at the time.

The Legislature has since changed the law to include indirect attempts at solicitation. The new wording took effect last year.

Cosmo had replied to a Craigslist ad placed by a multiple-agency task force led by the FBI posing as “Amber,” the fictitious mother of girls ages 14 and nine.

Cosmo exchanged several e-mails with Amber, who had offered herself and daughters for various sex acts for money. He confirmed a date over the phone with a woman posing as the mother and was arrested when he showed up.

The case is important because the task force used the tactics in other cases across North Georgia and other police used similar tactics throughout the state, according to Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton.

“What the General Assembly is criminalizing in this particular statute is not the actions of the child but the actions of the defendant,” he said, “the defendant using the Internet, using a communications device, holding himself some distance away from the intended victim, to then entice that child and to in effect solicit that child.”

Cosmo’s attorney, Adam Hames, argued that the wording of the Georgia law when Cosmo was arrested required direct communication with a child in order to be guilty of soliciting it.

The justices who asked questions were critical of Hames’ logic.

“It seems to me pretty clear that, by approaching the fake mother of the child to get to the fake child, that he was taking a very substantial step on the road to soliciting the child,” said Justice David Nahmias.

The Supreme Court typically hands down decisions three to four months after hearing oral arguments. Monday was the first session of the new year.

Cosmo is getting a new trial because the Court of Appeals ordered it because the trial judge didn’t instruct the jury on entrapment which wasn’t an issue before the Supreme Court.

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