A former West Palm Beach weatherman has been convicted on two of the three charges he’d been facing: child pornography and child exploitation.
In a high-profile case played out in a Palm Beach County courtroom, the former television personality was accused of exchanging hundreds of sexually explicit text messages and images with a 15-year-old boy. Prosecutors also alleged the two met on one occasion and engaged in oral sex, though that was a charge the defense denied and of which he was ultimately acquitted.
Our Palm Beach felony defense attorneys understand the defendant still faces 20 years in prison (or as few as 34 months), though he may serve more if convicted of unlawful sexual activity with a minor in a separate case involving a 17-year-old high school junior.
This case demonstrates how much one has to lose in such cases, and how critical it is to hire a defense firm that is dedicated to putting up a major fight from start to finish. Despite the conviction, the sentencing phase could be key – the difference between three years and two decades of prison. His acquittal for engaging in actual sexual contact with the minor is likely to prove especially important.
The defendant had testified in his own defense, saying he never met his younger accuser (now 18) until he saw him for the first time in the courtroom. The pair connected on Craigslist, with the weatherman saying he believed the teen to be 18, although pretending to be 15. He described their exchanges as “fantasy,” “role play” and “fetish,” not intended for the victimization of any actual minor.
Prosecutors countered that it didn’t matter what the weatherman believed; his actions were still criminal.
The defense was highly critical of the fact that the teen had deleted all the suggestive text messages he himself had sent, which defense attorneys said would have shown this was not something the weatherman had pressed to continue. The teen conceded on the stand that he was “really lonely,” which was the reason he engaged in these ongoing exchanges.
Unfortunately, the teen’s intentions or motivations don’t matter. Many times, the “teens” in these cases aren’t real at all, but rather undercover detectives playing the role.
The strategies we employ depend on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, as this defense team did, we will focus on the intent and knowledge of the defendant. We might also look at the level of computer or technological sophistication of our client. It’s possible that he or she became ensnared in an undercover scheme or clicked to open images with no intention of accessing illegal material.
It may also be worth it to explore the nature of the images themselves. There may be situations in which the pictures are not actually child pornography, per the technical definition.
We will also examine the same standards we would as with any criminal case. This might include whether certain statements made to law enforcement may be inadmissible and whether searches and/or seizures of evidence were improper under the law. Similarly, we may seek to exclude evidence that is both inflammatory and irrelevant (i.e., evidence in a separate pending case).
No matter what your situation, as former prosecutors, we have an inside track on how the other side is going to build their case. That gives us a leg up in building yours.
If you are charged with a sex crime in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Ex-weatherman guilty of two teen sex crimes, Oct. 24, 2013, By Marc Freeman, Sun Sentinel
More Blog Entries:
Falsely Accused Man Seeks Justice, Oct. 22, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Blog