Monday, January 24, 2005

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Attorney General Abbott Gets Solid Results From Prosecutions; One Child Predator Sentenced To 13 Years

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today announced a 13-year prison sentence against a Round Rock man who was convicted of attempting to meet a child for sex via the Internet. In separate child predator cases, Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit also obtained a plea from a San Antonio airman stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, and a conviction against a Tarrant County man.

Cyber Crimes Unit officers have arrested 56 men and charged them with similar offenses since Attorney General Abbott instituted the crime-fighting group in May 2003.

“These actions demonstrate that Texans will not tolerate those who victimize children,” said Attorney General Abbott. “Those who prey on the innocence of children to fulfill their deviant desires will feel the full measure of justice handed down for their deeds.”

Arrested by Cyber Crimes Unit officers in July 2003, Naveed Shams, 36 – at the time a resident of Round Rock and a contract employee for the Texas Education Agency – was found guilty by a Travis County jury Thursday of criminal solicitation of a minor. Upon receiving the verdict, District Judge Julie Kocurek imposed a $250,000 cash bond and Shams was immediately taken into custody. Assistant Attorney General John Saba joined Travis County Assistant District Attorney Patrick McNelis in prosecuting Shams.

Naveed ShamsTodd Kennedy

The Attorney General’s investigation proved Shams drove to a prearranged location in the Bee Cave area on July 10 to meet a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, with whom he had conversed in an Internet chat room. In fact, the “girl” was a Cyber Crimes investigator trained in recognizing possible child predators who attempt to solicit underage teens for sex. Evidence brought in the punishment phase of the trial Friday revealed that Shams had sexually solicited another Attorney General investigator who was also posing as a 13-year-old girl.

Franklin Buckridge Jr., 23, an Airman 1st Class assigned to Military Intelligence at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, pleaded guilty in December to a federal charge of coercion and enticement of a child. The Cyber Crimes Unit’s case against Buckridge dates to February 2004, when he solicited an investigator for sex numerous times in a chat room.

When military officers executed a search warrant at his residence, they also discovered evidence of child pornography, some of which he had transferred to the investigator over the Internet. Buckridge pleaded guilty only to the coercion and enticement charge, which under federal statutes can range from five and 30 years in prison. His sentencing date is set for Feb. 25.

On Jan. 13 a Hood County jury took 15 minutes to convict Benbrook resident Todd Keith Kennedy, 42, of criminal solicitation of a minor. A first-time offender, he was sentenced the same day to 10 years, probated for five years, and must register as a sex offender for 15 years.

Kennedy was arrested by Cyber Crimes officers in October 2003 when he traveled to Granbury to meet an individual he thought was a 13-year-old girl. The officers were conducting an undercover field operation in Hood County when Kennedy used a chat room to state his sexual intentions and his plan to meet the “girl.” At the time, Kennedy worked at a local WalMart store.