Authorities follow up on chat sting

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hinds County authorities continue to wrap up a weekend stingthat netted 12 arrests on child exploitation charges.

Capt. Henry Glaze, commander of the the Child ProtectionDivision of the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, said hisdepartment continues to work the case, which now includes threephases.

The Hinds County Sheriff’s Department with the help of PervertedJustice, set up a sting operation recently in the Hinds Countyarea. Perverted Justice is a private organization and watchdoggroup that is dedicated to finding and exposing Internet predatorswith tendencies toward children.

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The plan’s first priority is the 12 men, including one fromLincoln County, who were arrested in the sting, Glaze said.

Lawrence Morris, 22, of Brookhaven, was one of the last mennetted in the sting, which was held “in a rapidly growing suburbanarea of Hinds County,” Glaze said. He declined to comment on theexact location of the sting, pending further investigation.

Morris was charged with exploitation of a child and his bond wasset at $75,000, Glaze said Tuesday. Morris was released on bondTuesday afternoon.

In the sting, which is new to his department, Glaze said aPerverted Justice decoy posed as an underage female in a chat roomon the Internet. The decoy indicated she was home alone.

Men from Hinds County, as well as other counties in Mississippi,initiated chats, which were of a sexual nature, and set up meetingswith the decoy. Glaze, other deputies and volunteers waited for thepredators to come to the home where they had set up for theoperation.

“For every one person that showed up, there was one that stoodus up,” Glaze said of the meetings. “Perverted Justice has topquality people and did a superior job, handling the computer sideto a ‘T’.”

“We’ve very happy with the results from the operation, whichnetted everything from an individual with a history of violentcrimes to an individual that arrived with a firearm, to even a FEMAworker from Florida who was assigned to federal duty inMississippi,” said a release on Perverted Justice’s Web siteTuesday afternoon.

The second priority of the investigation will be to pursue theapproximately 40-plus contributors that initiated chats with thedecoy, Glaze said. Under state law, initiating a sexually-orientedchat over the Internet with an underaged person constitutes a crimeand is a felony, he explained.

Glaze’s third priority will be to make sure agencies in otherjurisdictions receive information that originated in theirrespective areas.

“We will make sure people in authority are aware,” Glazesaid.

Glaze said his investigation includes chat logs and othermaterials that can be used in prosecution.

“We’ll hand over the chat logs and the Web site. If there’ssomething the D.A. wants to pursue, then they are free to do so,”Glaze said. “And they’ll have the ammunition to do so.”

Information from the recent sting will be presented to the nextHinds County Grand Jury, Glaze said.

“If Hinds County doesn’t do anything with it, then it will bepresented to the county where the chat originated,” Glaze said.

The alleged predators can either be tried in the county wherethe chat originates or where it ends, Glaze explained.

Officers with the Hind’s County Sheriff’s Department receivedspecial training on how to handle computer evidence and the finepoints of these types of investigations, Glaze said.

“We’re setting a precedent,” Glaze said of the sting in HindsCounty. “We want to get it right.”