When Cody Michael Green pleaded guilty to sexually related charges last week, it essentially closed the book on the Harris County “To Catch a Predator” sting.
Green, 23, was the 19th of 20 men to either plead guilty or be convicted by a jury of charges stemming from the July 2006 sting involving the NBC “Dateline” show “To Catch a Predator” starring Chris Hansen. The only one whose case hasn’t been revolved, Abhilash Bhaskaran, 37, fled in February 2007. He remains at large.
Green pleaded guilty Friday before Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr. to charges of attempted child molestation, attempted sodomy and attempted statutory rape. Jordan sentenced him to three years in prison, followed by 12 on probation, said Al Whitaker, chief assistant district attorney.
“There were several psychological evaluations,” Whitaker said of the time it took to resolve the case. “There was evidence he had been in a wreck as a teenager and had some brain injury.”
Green was arrested, as were the 19 other men, after coming to a Harris County home in search of what authorities said was sexual relations with an underage boy or girl. Green made bond on his charges, though he was rearrested Aug. 6, 2007, in Alpharetta, Ga., on accusations he exposed himself to an 8-year-old girl at a swimming pool.
That case remains pending, Whitaker said.
Doctors at West Central Georgia Regional Hospital found Green competent to stand trial, though Green’s Atlanta attorney, BJ Bernstein, wanted a forensic evaluation done, Whitaker said.
That evaluation countered the West Central report, saying that the initial examination didn’t include a complete neurological evaluation, Whitaker added.
That led to six-hour hearing Aug. 4, which resulted in the judge finding Green competent to stand trial and competent when he arrived at the Harris County home in July 2006, the prosecutor said.
Whitaker wanted a sentence of around five years in prison and five on probation while Green’s attorney asked for two years’ incarceration and eight on probation. Jordan opted for three years in prison, the prosecutor said.
“He’s going to be on an ankle monitor for awhile,” Whitaker said of Green’s requirements upon release. “He has to live with his parents. He has all the sex offender conditions.”
Whitaker said “To Catch a Predator” was a unique law enforcement tool. The law clearly states it’s not entrapment, he said, and it shows society the magnitude of the child exploitation problem.
His only concern was how it’s “sensationalized” on TV.
“I leave that to the public to decide,” Whitaker said.
Columbus Public Defender Bob Wadkins, who represented Todd West, 41, one of the man snared in the sting, said there’s an element of “trickeration” by law enforcement by using a decoy in such cases.
“It sort of in some ways offends our notions of fair play in Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence,” Wadkins said. “Somebody does something that’s against the law, and the police catch them and prove they did something they shouldn’t have.
“This is — we’ve got bait out there, and we’re going to see who takes it and we’ll catch them that way. If the government hadn’t set this up, there wouldn’t have been any crime.”
However, Wadkins added that the method does protect children from people who would sexually exploit them, though he wouldn’t want the show to return to the area.
“I’m not arguing for it or against it,” he said. “I don’t care for the way it’s done, but I understand why they do it that way.”
Harris County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Neil Adams said “To Catch a Predator” helped lock up people who needed to be put away. While he doesn’t know if his office will do a sting on such a large scale again that involves the TV show, he said he’s sure if it did happen, it would be just as successful.
“I’m glad that after all this time that it’s come to a successful resolution,” said Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley.