Man gets year in prison for arranging meeting with 15-year-old girl


By Joe Gorman

jgorman@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

An Akron man who pleaded guilty to charges he arranged to meet a 15-year-old girl over the internet – only to be met by police – was sentenced Monday to a year in prison.

Judge R. Scott Krichbaum handed down the sentence in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to James Smith Jr., 52, on charges of importuning and attempted unlawful sexual contact with a minor.

Smith was arrested in February as one of 10 people booked into the jail as part of a sting operation by the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and nine other police agencies targeting men looking for underage girls on the internet for sex.

Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin said Smith thought he was talking to a 15-year-old girl online but he was really speaking to a police officer, and he described several things he wanted to do. He made arrangements to meet the person but when he arrived, he was instead met by police and arrested.

McLaughlin recommended that Smith be sentenced to a year in prison. She said he has no prior criminal record but said his argument that he never committed a crime because he did not meet the girl – but instead a police officer – did not carry weight because he had the intent to commit a crime.

Smith’s lawyer, Brian Hoffman, asked for a sentence of probation. He said his client has several health issues which would require the state to spend extra resources to care for Smith in prison. He also said his client has learned his lesson about staying out of trouble and pointed out Smith has no prior criminal record.

Smith apologized and said he is no longer using the internet.

“This has changed my life quite a bit,” Smith said.

Judge Krichbaum said he thinks a prison sentence is necessary because people need to know there is a punishment if they engage in the type of conduct to which Smith admitted.

“I want to give a message to you and to everybody else that you better by God not even think of doing anything like this,” Judge Krichbaum said.

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