Tuesday, May 30, 2006

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Attorney General Abbott's Cyber Crimes Unit Obtains Three-Year Prison Term For Longview Child Predator

LONGVIEW – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit has obtained a guilty plea and a three-year prison sentence for a former Longview restaurant manager who attempted to meet a 13-year-old child for sex. He will also be required to register with the state as a sex offender.

Rodney Maurice Harris, 21, of Tyler, pled guilty to online solicitation of a minor in a Gregg County district court on Friday. Prosecutors with the Attorney General’s office assisted Gregg County District Attorney Bill Jennings in the case.

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Rodney Harris
Rodney Harris

“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 offenders.”

Harris was arrested on Feb. 7, 2006, after he arranged a meeting for sex with a person whom he thought was a 13-year-old girl he had been chatting with online. The “girl” was actually an undercover investigator for Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit. At the time of his arrest, Harris was a manager of a local restaurant and a part-time college student.

Online solicitation of a minor is a third degree felony charge that carries a possible punishment of two to 20 years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Harris’ arrest was made as part of an undercover sweep of Gregg and Smith counties by Cyber Crimes Unit investigators in February 2006. Two other men arrested in the operation, Joe Alan Cook and Tommy Lynn Burt, both of Longview, were indicted by a Longview grand jury April 20, 2006, on charges of criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child and attempted sexual performance by a child.

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority in his administration. The Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators, has made 80 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.