By Daniel Silliman
A 39-year-old father of three was found guilty of traveling from Texas to Georgia to have sex with what he thought was a 10-year-old girl and her mother.
Kelly Brenton Farley, the vice president of a payroll and tax management company from McKinney, Texas, was found guilty by a federal judge on Friday and faces a possible prison sentence of 30 years to life.
Farley traveled to Georgia after seven months of Internet conversations with Clayton County Police Department Detective Joanne Southerland, who was undercover as a 41-year-old single mother on a web site chat room that is a "known meeting place for pedophiles," court documents show.
Southerland, trolling the chat room as part of the county department's participation in the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Department of Justice's task forces targeting Internet child predators, began chatting online with Farley in October 2006. She represented herself as "Steph," from Riverdale, with a 10-year-old girl named,"Sydney," according to court documents.
During their first conversation, Farley said he was attracted to "younger girls," including his own 12-year-old and 10-year-old daughters. He said he was online looking for a child to have sex with, because having sex with his own girls was "too risky with wife," according to the formal federal complaint filed by Southerland. Repeatedly, during the online chats, Southerland asked Farley if he was just interested in talking about pedophilia, just interested in the fantasy, or if he wanted to engage in the explicitly described acts "for real." Farley said he had sex with children before and was very interested in having sex with "Steph" and her daughter, "Sydney."
Farely's attorney, Vionnette Reyes Johnson, argued that it was "legally impossible" for Farley to be guilty, since "there is not an actual child in the case."
The defense's doctrine of "legal impossibility" was used, successfully, in 1976, in a case where a man said he would sell heroin, but sold instead novocaine, which is commonly used by dentists. The federal court found it could not infer intent to sell heroin "because he in fact did something else," court documents show. In 2002, however, the federal court rejected the doctrine of legal impossibility in a case involving allegations relating to an undercover agent posing as a 13-year-old girl. Johnson asked the court to approve the doctrine, reversing the 2002 decision, but was unsuccessful.
Johnson also argued that Farley's sexually explicit conversations about pedophilia are protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of the freedom of speech.
"An adult has a First Amendment right to engage in sexual, erotic, and even "patently offensive, indecent speech with another adult over the internet," Johnson wrote in a motion filed with the federal court. "[In] cyberspace an adult may certainly express to another adult, his sexual desires, fantasies, and interests, in a sexually explicit manner."
After Farley was arrested by FBI agents as he got off of the plane in Atlanta, he confessed to having the conversations and wanting to have sex with the 10-year-old and her mother, court documents show. In his online conversation with the detective, whom he thought was the mother, the man said his desire for pedophilia was the result of a progression of pornography.
"As a teen," Farley wrote, "[I] started looking at porn. As you look at more, you need harder and harder stuff to really get you going. So you go from like Playboy, to Penthouse, to Hustler, etc. Then from adult, to teen, to curious about younger. Then I discovered chat rooms."
When Farley was arrested, FBI agents discovered more than 100 images of child pornography on his laptop computer.
United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said the guilty verdict was "another disturbing reminder of the dangers that lurk on the internet in the form of predators who hope to sexually exploit children."
Farley's sentencing is scheduled for June 27.