Friday, April 2, 2004

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First Child Predator Arrested By Abbott's Cyber Crimes Unit Gets 40-Year Prison Sentence

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott praised the stiff prison sentence handed down today in a Lampasas district court for the first of 37 child predators arrested by Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit for attempting to solicit children on the Internet for sex.

District Judge Joe Carroll sentenced James Steven Thornton Jr., 27, of Lampasas, to 40 years in prison, the maximum allowable under the terms of his guilty plea. Lampasas County District Attorney Larry Allison and Cyber Crimes prosecutor Grant Sparks prosecuted the case.


James Steven Thornton Jr.

Thornton, a repeat offender who is married and the father of two children, was arrested on May 10, 2003, by Cyber Crimes investigators. He pleaded guilty to the charge of criminal solicitation of a minor. He was the first child predator arrested by the then-newly formed Cyber Crimes Unit.

“We have come full circle, from this man’s online enticements to whom he thought was a child, to his aggressive plan to meet for a sexual encounter, to his arrest by our officers, to his indictment, and now to his guilty plea and sentencing,” said Attorney General Abbott.

“We have used the legal system to put this offender behind bars where he belongs, and we expect other indictments of defendants awaiting trial will yield similar results. Our children deserve no less.”

Abbott said the stiff sentence underlines his priority to keep children safe and predators off the Internet.

Abbott’s Cyber Crimes officers arrested Thornton after he drove to a fast food restaurant in Bee Cave west of Austin for a rendezvous. He had arranged a sexual encounter with whom he thought would be a 13-year-girl he met on the Internet. The “girl” turned out to be a Cyber Crimes investigator trained in conversing with potential child predators in teen chat rooms.

Thornton told the online investigator where to meet him, and described the pickup he would be driving and the style of clothes he would be wearing. Cyber Crimes officers also executed a search warrant at Thornton’s home on East Third Street in Lampasas and seized computer hardware and software allegedly used in planning the meeting.

Thornton has three felony convictions and was on parole at the time of his arrest, prior facts that were considered by the judge in his sentencing decision. Previous convictions included unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, burglary of a habitation and criminal mischief, which involved an incident with other inmates during a prior incarceration. His record includes six felony and eight misdemeanor arrests.

Since Thornton’s arrest, 36 other child predators who have traveled to meet children under similar circumstances have been arrested, one as recently as last week. Most have been indicted by grand juries on felony charges. The men allegedly drove from Houston, Killeen, Junction, Hutto, Staples and other locations to meet children for sex in the Central Texas area.

The Attorney General’s Office has posted a number of news releases at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov since May describing these offenses.