It cracks me up when law enforcement attaches cute-sy names to their sting operations, recently the Sheriff’s Office has conducted a Felon-sweep and Operation Spiderweb. My ongoing favorite are the DUI-targeted enforcement patrols they call Wolfpacks. The drivers are being hunted, you see…
The latest is the Lee County Sheriff’s Operation Spiderweb, wherein the deputies spun a net to entangle 40 “sick, creepy animals” as Sheriff Mike Scott referred to them. And to be sure, some of them are: investigators posed as children as young as 11, and lured several dozen predators, including a schoolteacher, to make sexual plans with the undercover officers they believed to be young. However, not all of these arrestees are the “real monsters and real scary, creepy people” that Sheriff Scott suggests they are. Some of them are only teenagers, a few years older than the non-existent victims. Over half of them are under the age of 30. There were never any children in harm’s way.
The recent discussion of the Sarah Jones case has prompted me to discuss the problems with treating all sexual criminals as horrible sexual predators. If a 16-year-old has sex with a 23-year-old, it’s fine. But if an 18-year-old talks about fooling around with a 15-year-old… they are branded as monsters and face charges that could send them to prison for decades. Many of the defendants charged in Operation Spider Web weren’t just charged with one count. Instead, they got multiple counts of enticing, using a 2-way communication device, and travelling to meet the non-existent minor, or more.
Additionally, the political motivation is clear as the Sheriff holds a big press conference, just more than a week before the upcoming election. Any time you get enticement charges, there are concerns about entrapment:, would these people have taken a criminal turn if law enforcement agents weren’t guiding them that way. The concerns about law enforcement’s motives are increased when the sting is an election tool. The more “predators” they catch in their net… the bigger the headline going into the final weeks of campaigning. It will be fascinating to see how these cases pan out. #operationspiderweb