A 27-year-old man was arrested in Columbia, Missouri, on December 15. He was accused of solicitation of a minor.

The man was charged with attempted enticement of a child and second-degree attempted statutory sodomy. Police claim that the man encountered a detective posing as a 14-year-old in a web chat room. According to police, the man communicated with the detective via email and text messages. The man allegedly arranged to meet the minor at a fast food restaurant. He was met, instead, by a plainclothes investigator.

The man was transported to the county jail. He was released upon payment of a bond of $50,000.

One of the more interesting aspects of this case is the relatively large amount of electronic evidence that is said to exist. There allegedly were chat sessions and emails on the Internet, as well as text messages sent using cellphones.

There are various ways to electronically verify that these messages came from where the prosecution says they come from. The defense will want to thoroughly check this evidence to find any differences between what the prosecution is claiming and the real story.

The prosecution may have an expert to testify that the electronic evidence is what it purports to be. The defense should rigorously question the expert to determine exactly what techniques were allegedly used to verify the identity of the sender of the messages. Any discrepancies should be pointed out so that the jury knows not to put too much weight on the expert’s testimony.

Finally, it also should be remembered that someone else may have sent the messages using the man’s electronic devices. Computers can be hacked and cellphones can be used surreptitiously when the owner’s attention is diverted. The defense should check to see if this is a possibility.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, “Child enticement suspect arrested,” Dec. 17, 2012