Legal Expert Explains Sex Crime Stings vs. Entrapment - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Legal Expert Explains Sex Crime Stings vs. Entrapment

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People across Virginia are seeing familiar faces in the news for horrible reasons. Just this week, Augusta County sheriff’s deputies arrested a popular former Western Albemarle High School teacher on child sex crime charges.

It happened in an online sting, with an investigator posing as a young teenager. John Patterson showed up Tuesday to what he thought was a meeting with a 13-year-old boy. He had arranged it online. It turned out the meeting was actually with police, who arrested him on the spot.

NBC29's legal analyst, Lloyd Snook, says when police pose as teenagers and set up these meetings, it's rare whoever gets arrested can claim entrapment.

"The bottom line on entrapment is if it's your idea, you lose, if it's the cop’s ideas, you might win. But even if it's the cop's idea you have to prove that if it wasn't for something they did, you would never in a million years have thought of this,” Snook said.

Patterson is not alone. Matthew Musselwhite is on probation after Albemarle police, posing as a 14-year-old girl, arrested him. And former police and school resource officer John Nuckolls is behind bars after Staunton police picked him up during a meeting with who he thought he was a 14-year-old girl.

Snook says none of these men are likely to win their cases.

"In the ordinary case, the prosecution has the only burden of proof. In an entrapment case, the defendant has to prove that he wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for something police did,” Snook said.

Snook says that would be hard to do, since the undercover officers who pose as teenagers know what they're doing.

"They're trained to know how to go up to the edge, and then to cause you to go over the edge," he said.

Meanwhile, other police officers have turned their attention to parents and children, trying to protect them when it comes to the Internet.

"For parents we try to tell them to prepare their children for the online world as if it were the real world: don't talk to strangers," said Sgt. TD Layman with the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office.

Layman's advice to kids is: "If you can't put a face with a friend online, then they should not be your friend online."
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