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Snared by sting, child predator pleads guilty

By Daniel Silliman

A 60-year-old Alabama man plead guilty to federal charges of preying on a child, after Clayton County Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation caught him using an Internet chat room in an attempt to have sex with a 10-year-old girl.

The girl didn't actually exist, but was a police officer in the department's crimes' against children unit, posing undercover online.

Ronald Aubery Nelson, of Montgomery, logged on to a Yahoo! chat room, early in November 2006. He initiated a conversation with the officer, who was online trolling chat rooms on a police department computer. Nelson, according to information presented in court, thought the officer was the mother of a 10-year-old child, a mother who would allow him to engage in sex acts with the child.

The 60-year-old man reportedly bragged, during the online conversation, about his sexual experiences with underage children, and claimed to have some of them online.

In about two weeks, Nelson made a number of lewd and graphic statements about what he wanted to do to the 10-year-old. On November 19, he traveled to Georgia and checked into a hotel.

When Nelson left the room, he was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

"This defendant," United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said, "using an Internet chat room, attempted to entice into sexual activity a child he believed to be a 10-year-old girl. We are dedicated to protecting our children from this type of online sexual predator and rescuing children from sexual abuse. This was a very serious crime."

Nahmias has noted, previously, catching child predators is "as high a priority as we have," at the U.S. Justice Department. Official estimates put about 50,000 child predators on the Internet looking for child victims. Statistics show that one out of every seven children receive unwanted sexual solicitation.

Lt. Leslie Stone, commander of the Clayton County crimes against children unit, said when she went online undercover as a 13-year-old girl, within 45 minutes, she had been engaged in nine chat room conversations about sex.

"It's frightening," she said after an arrest in 2007. "I didn't believe it. I went through the training and I didn't believe it."

Nelson was arrested in a joint operation under the auspices of Project Safe Childhood, an initiative launched by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in 2006. It brings federal, state and local departments together to combat online child predators.

Part of the program, Internet Crimes Against Children, provides local, participating police departments with funding, training and technology to troll the Internet and prey on predators. Since March 2007, the Clayton County Police Department has participated in catching seven alleged child predators, including a local attorney, an officer at the police department, an official at United States Department of the Interior, and Nelson.

After Nelson was arrested, coming out of his hotel with the intention of meeting a mother and a 10-year-old in a sexual rendezvous, he confessed to the crime and told investigating agents of another victim, a young girl he had sexually harmed. Though details were not released, Nahmias said the little girl was identified and taken into protective custody.

Nelson is set to be sentenced in April. He faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.