Men alleged to have tried to meet underage boys for sex get treatment instead of jail

ajc.com

Four men who authorities allege tried to meet with underage boys for sex but instead were met with vigilantes with cameras avoided criminal convictions and were instead allowed to get treatment, court documents say.

Kenneth Curtis and Matthew West, both of Brookville; Austin Naas of Troy; and Jason McCright, of Orlando, Florida, all were indicted in March 2020 in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court for one count of attempting to commit unlawful sexual conduct with a minor.

Explore4 accused of trying to meet teen boy for sex

“All of the defendants arrived at locations to meet with a 15-year-old boy for sex,” the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office said. “Instead, each was confronted by self-described vigilantes who had posed as the 15-year-old boy in an online app. In each incident, the defendant was confronted by the vigilante and videoed, which was posted on YouTube.”

Judge Richard Skelton last week granted McCright, 48, his request for intervention in lieu of conviction. He was ordered to follow a number of conditions, including a term of intensive probation supervision with a sex offender specialist for at least one year but not more than five.

The other defendants also received intervention in lieu of conviction, despite opposition by the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office.

“These defendants engaged in sexually explicit conversations over the internet and made their intentions known that they were seeking out minors to have sex with,” a prosecutor’s spokesman said. “The defendants were charged with a crime that carries a mandatory sex offender registration requirement if they were found guilty as charged. Due to the court granting (intervention in lieu of conviction), these defendants will not be required to register as sex offenders. The state argued this demeans the seriousness of the offenses committed and fails to aid in making our community safer.”

Attorneys for the four men either declined comment or did not reply to a request for comment. In court documents, attorneys told the judge that their clients were eligible for intervention, some saying either mental illness and/or substance abuse led to the criminal offenses.

Treatment plans, in general, are geared toward first-time offenders who commit low-level felonies and there are indications that drugs, alcohol or some type of mental disability are involved, University of Dayton law professor Thomas Hagel said.

“The idea behind it is to basically put them on what’s the equivalent of probation, and if they are successful in that program, then the plea they enter will be set aside and they won’t have a record,” he said.

Who is eligible for intervention is controlled by state law and by legislators, he said.

“So if there is some concern about these type of offenses being qualified for ILC, then the proper way to go about it is to approach the legislator to amend the statute to exclude these types of offenses,” Hagel said.

The prosecutors office has discouraged people from attempting to catch criminals through similar unofficial sting operations.

“Citizens acting as ‘vigilantes’ put themselves, and their families, in a very dangerous and risky situation,” prosecutors said at the time. “Law enforcement officers are trained and are responsible for conducting these types of investigations.”