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Georgia high court asked to uphold tactic to capture sex predators

Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 8:22 AM
Last updated 7:29 PM
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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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oldredneckman96 01/07/14 - 11:20 am

The luck or success of a criminal should not have a bearing on his conviction. If I go to rob a bank and the vault is empty that should not be my get out of jail card. Put this pervert in jail and leave him there.

nocnoc 01/07/14 - 12:02 pm
Something does need to be done.

but using the same setup process,
but using different criteria (subject matter).
Many courts would (have) consider this process Entrapment.

Yes this pervert needs to be yank off the streets, but there are rules that must be followed to ensure everyday citizen rights are not later abused.

Everyday citizen rights?
The USA is a Common Law court system so that all cases are judged the same to ensure rights are equally protected, trials are fair, equal verdicts and punishment are handed out. It is how the Poor and the Rich are supposed to be the same under the blindfolded eye of Lady Justice in the legal system.

Here is GEORGIA LAW O.C.G.A. 16-3-25 (2010)

16-3-25. Entrapment
A person is NOT guilty of a crime if, by entrapment, his conduct is induced or solicited by a government officer or employee, or agent of either, for the purpose of obtaining evidence to be used in prosecuting the person for commission of the crime. Entrapment exists where the IDEA & INTENTION of the commission of the crime ORIGINATED with a government officer or employee, or with an agent of either, and he, by undue persuasion, incitement, or deceitful means, induced the accused to commit the act which the accused would not have committed except for the conduct of such officer.

After reading the Official GA Law
and remembering that the US & GA Courts use Common Law (Court Case history) to judge future cases.

Don't we need to consider the process, not the subject matter, in this case?

If the general process is found legal, the process could be far reaching into our daily lives. Everyday citizen would have to walk around with a lawyer in their pocket to avoid being a potential criminal.

An again I repeat,
yes this pervert needs to be pulled off the street.

But we need to look past the subject of the case and look at the process used to make the case.

This is what the Appeal judges will be doing also, I hope.

nocnoc 01/07/14 - 12:09 pm
Using the bank example

An over zealous LEO setups up a Bank robbery with a street punk?
The punk shows up to rob a bank, there was no bank its a vacate lot.?

Is he being arrested for intent, bank robbery, conspiracy, or being a idiot with low moral fiber who was talked into something?

Remember I am not on this pervert side.

I am looking to the potential misused of the process as employed.

Riverman1 01/07/14 - 12:23 pm
This whole concept of law

This whole concept of law enforcement going online with ads or other things to entice perverts is so suspect.

nocnoc 01/07/14 - 12:39 pm
Riverman - My broad take on it.

There has to be a victim to be a crime.
Otherwise we get into the area of intended crime vs crime.

Kinda like the book Minority Report.

What little law I took
I learned Intent can be used to judge a crime, but you must have a crime to judge intent.

My very poor example and broad look would be.
I purchase a car that can do 180 MPH.
Have I committed a crime, could I be arrested for talking about how fast it could go to a undercover LEO? Could I be arrested just showing up to a setup drag race sting to watch?

Like I said this is a poor example but it gets the point out there.

Dseven 01/07/14 - 01:13 pm
Mixed feelings.

I don't particularily like the methods used here to catch this creepo. But, on the other hand I seriously doubt an innocent person would ever be accidently caught in this type of snare. Lastly, I think he should be prosecuted (even considering the verbage of the law at the time), his approach to the fake mom/daughters was an overt act.

Dixieman 01/07/14 - 10:46 pm
I think there are similar cases

involving people who think they are buying drugs but the undercover cops are selling them baby powder or some decoy package. Anyway, this is a legitimate tactic and he should not be excused from criminal liability here.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 01/08/14 - 12:16 am

NocNoc posted:

VERY GENERALLY SPEAKING — There has to be a victim to be a crime.

Yes. And when Silda Dean, age 19, testified that she lied on the stand when she testified that he molested her, she established the condition that there was no crime committed. Thus, Scott Dean should be set free.

myfather15 01/08/14 - 09:03 am

I see your points, and they are valid. By this article, is does say "Cosmo exchanged several e-mails with Amber, who had offered herself and daughters for various sex acts for money."

What the article doesn't make clear, is whether he made any subtle hints or suggestions, BEFORE "she" offered herself and her daughters.

"Have I committed a crime, could I be arrested for talking about how fast it could go to a undercover LEO?" No, but TALKING is not taking a "very substantial step" in committing the crime. It appears, only going from this article, that this man took a very sustantial step, in committing the act's which were talked about.

myfather15 01/08/14 - 09:20 am
I do see the slippery slope

I do see the slippery slope here in regards to the law. If I'm on a internet dating sight, and some woman (or someone posing as a woman) contacts me, offering her and her minor daughter's for sex, without me ever mentioning such acts; I can see the concern.

But my personal opinion is that this is NOT an interference with ones FREE WILL. A person has every right, ability and RESPONSIBILITY to deny such an offer. What the code section doesn't cover, is UNDERCOVER government agents, posing as someone else. The government agents are NOT telling you that it's fine and legal to commit these actions and they are not forcing anyone to do so.

For example, to use your vehicle analogy: If I'm a uniformed officer and you and I are standing in the parking lot of a convenience store, talking about your new car that is really fast. Then I say "Hey man, go out there and see how fast it will really go." Then you say "Really? You're alright with that?" and I reply "Sure, that's a nice car, you need to test it out." Then you go out onto the highway and do 150 mph, and I pull you over and write you a ticket. I have DIRECTLY influenced you do commit a violation, by giving you the impression that it's fine and legal to do so. The IDEA& INTENTION came from me, as a representative of the government. Giving you the impression that you would NOT be in trouble. THAT, is clear entrapment.

This case is not quite as clear, because this agent was posing as a normal citizen, giving no impression that the act was legal.

"induced the accused to commit the act which the accused would not have committed except for the conduct of such officer."

Since the agent didn't give the impression the act was legal, it's hard to determine whether this person would have committed the act, unless the officer gave them the idea.

This is a tough case, true enough. Remember, this is just my opinion. I'm not saying you are wrong.

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