THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Attorney General Abbott's Cyber Crimes Unit Arrests Three Child Predators In East Texas Sting

LONGVIEW Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit has arrested three men for using the Internet to solicit a child for sex during a two-week sweep in Gregg and Smith counties. Joe Alan Cook and Tommy Lynn Burt, both of Longview, and Rodney Maurice Harris of Tyler were charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child.

All Texas families must beware of predators who are prowling the Internet in search of young victims, Attorney General Abbott said. Protecting Texas children from these predators takes a team approach, and I appreciate the cooperation of the Longview law enforcement officers who helped us capture these offenders.

In all three cases, the predators’ target was a person whom they thought was a 13-year-old girl they had met online. The girl was actually an undercover Cyber Crimes Unit investigator whom each of the offenders arranged to meet for sex at Longview apartment complexes.

Cook, 45, was arrested with help from Longview police officers on Feb. 1, after he arrived at the meeting location on his bicycle. Cook was unemployed at the time of his arrest.

Harris, 21, whom Cyber Crimes investigators arrested on Feb. 7, is manager of a local restaurant and a part-time college student majoring in religion at Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins.

Burt, 34, who was arrested on Feb. 9, was also charged with online solicitation of a minor. At the time of his arrest, Burt was a lineman at a local aviation plant and a former student at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall.

The charges are second-degree felonies punishable by two to 20 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority in his administration. The Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators, has made 74 arrests since Abbott formed the Unit in 2003. The Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, has arrested 261 such offenders. His office also has obtained convictions against 38 men on child pornography charges.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to crack down on sexual predators, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.