Monday, May 12, 2003

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Abbott's Internet Bureau Makes Arrest In Child Predator Case

AUSTIN--Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's Texas Internet Bureau arrested an alleged child predator over the weekend. Sexual predators of this type solicit children over the Internet via chat rooms, then make arrangements to meet and have sexual relations with the child.

James Steven Thornton, Jr., 26, a parolee living in Lampasas, was arrested Saturday afternoon as he arrived in Bee Cave in Travis County to meet what he assumed was a 13-year-old female he had met in a chat room. The female "child" happened to be an Internet Bureau investigator whom Thornton lured in the chat room. He then allegedly got the child to agree to a sexual rendezvous with him. He has been charged with criminal solicitation of a minor, a third-degree felony.

"It is imperative that child predators be thwarted well before they attempt to commit heinous crimes against children," said Attorney General Abbott. "That is precisely how this case unfolded over the weekend, as our Internet Bureau officers went on full alert to track down and arrest this individual with the help of Travis County Sheriff's Department officers."

Thornton allegedly engaged the online "female" in a four-hour, sexually explicit conversation, with full knowledge that she claimed to be 13. He told her where to meet him, described the pickup he would be driving and the style of clothes he would be wearing.

Internet Bureau officers also executed a search warrant at Thornton's home on East Third Street in Lampasas. Officers seized for evidence any computer hardware and software, business records, personal correspondence, faxes and maps allegedly used in the planned meeting.

A police officer from the McAllen Police Department, and investigators from the district attorneys' offices in Potter and Fort Bend counties participated in the undercover operation. Attorney General Abbott's Internet Bureau is working with local communities around the state to offer specialized computer and forensics training to law enforcement officers. These officers working on special assignment for the Attorney General can use their Internet Bureau training to fight child predators in their own communities.

Thornton's prior criminal history involves burglary, theft, stolen vehicle, obstructing police and invading privacy.