Retired South Florida Police Officer Accused of Soliciting Child Sex Acts Online

November 29, 2010 by David S. Seltzer

As a Miami-Dade cyber crime criminal defense attorney, I was interested to see a recent article about a similar situation, in which the officer was posing not as a child but as a parent willing to sexually exploit a child. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Nov. 23 on the arrest of Thomas Winters, a retired Cooper City police officer accused of using a computer to solicit a parent to engage a child in sexual activity, as well as obscene communication to a minor. Winters is being held in Volusia County Jail in Daytona Beach, because the “parent” came from that area.

According to the article, Winters, 64, thought he was chatting online with a parent of a 7-year-old girl. Law enforcement officers say Winters also thought the “girl” was watching through the webcam. They say he exposed himself over the webcam, thinking the girl could see, which gave rise to the charge of obscene communication to a minor. He then asked the “parent” to perform similar acts with the child on the webcam, violating Florida’s law against online solicitation of a minor. That law includes solicitation of someone believed to be an adult parent, guardian or custodian to allow a child to engage in sexual conduct. Law enforcement later searched Winters’s home and seized his computer equipment and digital media storage to look for evidence.

Unfortunately, much of this is old news for Fort Lauderdale cyber crime criminal defense lawyers like me. Florida law is written specifically to preclude defendants in this type of crime from arguing that there was no crime because the child or parent was really an undercover police officer. Thus, the fact that no child was ever in danger doesn’t matter -- all that matters is whether the prosecutors can prove that Winters’s behavior met the requirements of the law. From the article’s vague description, it’s possible that his request didn’t meet the legal definition of sexual conduct. But even if that’s true, this type of argument would be an uphill battle in any case involving child sex crimes, which is why it’s essential for defendants like Winters to hire a West Palm Beach cyber crime criminal defense attorney as early in their cases as possible.

Miami criminal attorney David Seltzer represents clients throughout Florida and the United States who are accused of serious online crimes. To learn more or set up a free, confidential consultation, call us 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333) or send us a message through our website.