Prosecutors in Phoenix are celebrating a major victory this week after securing a guilty verdict for a man convicted under Arizona’s “child prostitution” law for attempting to buy sex with a law enforcement officer who he believed to be a 16 year old girl. According to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, this is the first jury verdict for this type of operation in Arizona.
The case of Paul Daniel Wagner, which was prosecuted by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will have statewide impact as the jury’s verdict clarifies that trying to buy sex with a minor, or someone posing as a minor, is a serious crime.
As Shared Hope’s Protected Innocence Challenge report card for Arizona shows, Arizona has strong laws to combat demand for commercial sex with minors, a driving force behind the sex trafficking industry. However, bringing buyers to justice is a resource-intensive and challenging task. A primary challenge in combatting demand has been the growth of online exploitation of juvenile sex trafficking victims which allows both traffickers and buyers to remain anonymous and avoid detection by law enforcement.
In recent years, Phoenix-area law enforcement have led efforts to tackle demand through online sting operations and as a result, the area has seen a substantial increase in the identification and arrest of offenders seeking to pay for sex with a minor. When Shared Hope conducted an assessment of Arizona’s response to sex trafficking in 2010, research showed that only five of the 87 cases prosecuted under the “child prostitution” law since 2006 had involved buyers. In contrast, when Shared Hope conducted an assessment of anti-demand enforcement in Arizona in 2015, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office had commenced 89 prosecutions of buyers under the child prostitution law since December 2013.
Nevertheless, prosecution of buyers arrested during sting operations has presented its own set of challenges. In Shared Hope’s 2015 research, Demanding Justice Arizona, online sting operations served as the primary method of identifying buyers in the greater Phoenix region but one of the concerns to this approach was whether judges and juries would treat these cases as seriously as cases involving actual victims—particularly when offenders identified through sting operations were attempting to buy sex with a minor older than 15.
The jury verdict finding Paul Daniel Wagner guilty of a Class 2 felony for attempting to buy sex with a law enforcement officer who he believed to be a 16 year old girl indicates a rising intolerance for this crime. This case reflects the growing understanding that buyers of sex with minors—including those who target older minors—are not just guys who “made a mistake” or were “entrapped” but instead are serious offenders deserving of serious penalties.
Help us shift the stigma. #DemandJustice for buyers at www.demandingjustice.org.
What business do law enforcement officials have encouraging, or aiding, the commission of crimes? Such individual should never be convicted of “child Prostitution”, because the police have no business stirring up that crime. There is already more than enough crime in our society without the police adding to it.
The subjects of this sting operation by Phoenix Police were not seeking to meet children online. Instead, they were minding their own business, looking for other adults, when detectives started to groom and convince them to break the law. Sting operations lure generally law-abiding individuals into committing offenses they otherwise would not commit. Consider an individual who, targeted in a sting operation, is somehow talked into committing a crime. The crime of “child Prostitution,” Had the agents left him alone, he never would have done anything Unlawful with a “minor”, then or at any other time; assume, for purposes of analysis, that this is known with certainty. Does it make sense to punish him for the crime the police have persuaded him to commit? Such individual should never be convicted of “child Prostitution”, because the police have no business stirring up that crime. There is already more than enough crime in our society without the police adding to it.
A reverse-sting operation like this one transcends the bounds of due process and makes the Government the oppressor of its people.
Online undercover stings, which typically don’t involve real children or victims, are not even specified in the list of priorities agencies are supposed to target:
1. A child is at immediate risk of victimization.
2. A child is vulnerable to victimization by a known offender.
3. A known suspect is aggressively soliciting a child(ren).
4. Manufacturers, distributors or possessors of images that appear to be home photography with domiciled children.
5. Aggressive, high-volume child pornography manufacturers or distributors who either are commercial distributors, repeat offenders, or specialize in sadistic images.
6. Manufacturers, distributors, or solicitors involved in high-volume trafficking or belong to an organized child pornography ring that operates as a criminal conspiracy.
7. Distributors, solicitors and possessors of images of child pornography.
8. Any other form of child victimization.
Second degree murder, sexual assault, taking a child for the purpose of prostitution, child prostitution, sexual conduct with a minor or continuous sexual abuse of a child, involving or using minors in drug offenses, manufacturing methamphetamine under circumstances that cause physical injury to a minor. 7-21 years.
A person who is convicted of second degree murder; 10 years with a possible increase or decrease of up to 6 years for aggravating or mitigating circumstances.
A reverse-sting operation like this one transcends the bounds of due process and makes the Government the oppressor of its people. It only serves as a way for the police to increase arrests and “Hero” status. If they want to catch “real” child predators kid friendly social media sites are more likely than ADULT only web listings. Wish I was a tax payer funding real attempts to put away monsters, instead I feel I am paying to incarcerate idiots.