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Staged traffic stop leads to child pornography charges

A suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, man who recently pleaded guilty to charges of possessing child pornography was initially arrested after police officers staged a traffic stop against him, according to news reports. Few details of the traffic stop are available, including how the sting was carried out and whether officers had an arrest warrant prior to the stop.

The man, a 43-year-old Brentwood resident, was arrested on May 15 after officers acting as part of a partnership between Ross Township police and the FBI pulled him over. Generally, law enforcement officials must have a reasonable belief that people inside a motor vehicle have committed or are committing a crime before they can conduct a traffic stop. This may suggest that authorities had reason to believe that the defendant had child pornography inside his car, though it begs the question why officers did not arrest the man at his home.

Prosecutors claimed that the man posed as teenagers on the Internet and asked teenage girls to send him compromising photographs of themselves. Once the girls sent the photos, the defendant allegedly threatened to send the pictures to their friends and relatives unless they sent more explicit photos. Authorities also accused the man of blackmailing a girl who was a relative through marriage.

The man was charged in federal court. He pleaded guilty in a March 1 hearing. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the defendant could face a life sentence. He is free on bond until his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for June 29.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Brentwood man pleads guilty in 'sextortion' case," Rich Lord, March 1, 2012

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