THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS
Ken Paxton

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Attorney General Abbott Obtains Indictments Against Two Longview Men For Soliciting Children Online

LONGVIEW Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Gregg County District Attorney Bill Jennings obtained indictments against two Longview men for using the Internet to solicit a child for sex. Joe Alan Cook and Tommy Lynn Burt were indicted by a Longview grand jury April 20 on charges of criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child and attempted sexual performance by a child.

In both 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.

National statistics show that one of every five children will be solicited for sex while online, Attorney General Abbott said. Parents should be aware that predators can reach your child through Internet chatrooms, blogs and other social networking sites. Protecting Texas children from dangerous criminals takes a team approach, and I appreciate the cooperation of the Longview law enforcement officers who helped us capture these offenders.

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

Burt, 34, was arrested on Feb. 9 when he arrived for the meeting. At the time of his arrest, Burt was a lineman at a local aviation plant.

Criminal solicitation of a minor and attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child are second-degree felonies punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Attempted sexual performance by a child is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Because Cook had previous third-degree felony convictions in Illinois for home invasion and burglary, his punishment would range from five to 99 years in prison should he be convicted on any of the three charges on which he was indicted in Longview.

In response to the proliferation of online child predators, Attorney General Abbott and his top Cyber Crimes investigators will visit Tyler on May 11 for an interactive cyber safety town hall meeting that will arm parents with the tools they need to keep their children safer on the Internet. Attorney General Abbott and his investigators will outline the risks children face online, the environment teens face online, and the way child predators are using this emerging technology to find victims. The investigators will also offer information and safety tips about online predators and help parents decipher chatroom lingo.

Web sites that kids frequent very often are also cruised by child predators, Attorney General Abbott added. Parents attending this event next month can benefit from the experiences of our investigators by learning how to protect their children from those who seek to take advantage of them online.

The interactive presentation will provide the audience with an opportunity to ask questions, and attendees will also receive Attorney General Abbott’s new Internet Safety for Parents video, which offers advice and tangible safeguards to parents on how to spot the warning signs that their children may be giving out too much information to a potential child predator.

Date: 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 11, 2006
Location: Tyler Junior College Wise Auditorium
1400 East Fifth Street (main campus address)
Tyler, Texas

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority of his administration. The Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators, has made 76 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 over 270 such offenders. His office also has obtained convictions against 39 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.