A Houston car parker flew a Miami-area 14-year-old girl to Texas for sex. The man pleaded no contest, and a Florida judge withheld adjudication, meaning he has no criminal record. A Miami Herald computer analysis says the case is typical. State investigators spend several hundred thousand dollars yearly to trip up people like the Texas man who seduce people on the Internet, but most get their convictions forgiven.
In the last of a series, the Herald looked at 18,000 sex cases involving children in the past decade found that:
• More than half of adults who solicit children for sex online get withholds of adjudication, meaning no record even though they admit the crime.
• Nearly eight in 10 who publish or sell child porn on the Internet get their convictions erased.
• Four in 10 people who own child-porn pictures or videotapes get withholds.
Investigators say the state criminal code scores some Internet sex crimes no worse than writing a bad check at a store. It was last updated in 1998. “The law was written at a time before the explosion of the Internet,” said Don Condon of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
In Florida courts, people who possess child pornography face a third-degree felony, whjich doesn’t call for prison time. Offenders convicted of the same crime in federal court face at least 18 months in prison.