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Internet pedo sting ruled entrapment

Feds waste six months, countless dollars, role-playing on line

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A man convicted of trying to have sex with children was ordered released from prison by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the Feds had entrapped him, the Associated Press reports.

A three-judge panel found that Mark Poehlman had been lured and manipulated by an undercover agent offering a long-term relationship if Poehlman would agree to teach the agent's three little girls how to have sex.

The agent contacted Poehlman through an Internet service for people with "alternative" sexual identities, according to the court.

"There is surely enough real crime in our society that it is unnecessary for our law enforcement officials to spend months luring an obviously lonely and confused individual to cross the line between fantasy and criminality," Judge Alex Kozinski wrote Tuesday.

Judge David Thompson dissented from the majority opinion, arguing there was some evidence that Poehlman had a predilection for child sex, such as a remark he made before his arrest that he "always looked at little girls."

Judge Kozinski noted that Poehlman was lonely when he saw the ad by agent "Sharon" in 1995. He had been divorced by his wife and forced into early retirement by the Air Force after failing to control a cross-dressing compulsion.

Poehlman responded to Sharon, indicating he was looking for a long-term relationship leading to marriage. The two exchanged several e-mails in which Sharon hinted that she wanted Poehlman to have sex with her daughters. She later made it clear that if he did not, their communication would end, the wire service notes.

Over the next six months, she prompted him to describe in graphic detail how he would have sex with her children.

Poehlman was arrested in 1996 after he travelled to California to meet Sharon and the children. He spent 120 days in jail, then pleaded no contest to state child-sex charges on the condition that he be released.

In 1998, he was convicted on federal charges of crossing state lines to have sex with a minor. He was sentenced to over 10 years in prison. He is expected to be released within a week, AP says. ®

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