Sunday, September 14, 2014

Catching Up With My Friends: Joseph Wilson Pleads Guilty to Online Child Sex Crimes (2013)

I'm having one of those mornings. I woke and began wondering about one of my old friends who used to be quite involved with the Iowa City LGBT and arts scenes and who later (May 2012) got arrested after getting caught up in an Internet child sex sting in Florida.

I met Joe back in the mid-90s when I first moved to Iowa City. Husband Mark and I used to go to his place every week to watch episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (and later Star Trek: Voyager and later the UK Queer As Folk series) with a group of friends. We went to a handful of his parties. He even hosted our commitment ceremony reception at his condo in Iowa City. Eventually, he sold the condo and moved back to the Okoboji area of Iowa and I haven't been in touch with him since.

I first learned of Joe's arrest a month or two after it happened while reading an editorial in ACCESSline, an Iowa-based GLBT paper that my friend used to write for. Basically, the editor reported the arrest and informed readers that my friend was no longer involved with the paper (and, honestly, I don't think he'd written anything for the paper for a while prior to the arrest) and that his work was being scrubbed from the paper's online records.

I did some cyber-sleuthing at the time and learned that he was accused of reaching out to a fictional parent online (i.e., a cop) and made arrangements to have sex with the fictional parent's fictional 12-year-old son (and possibly his fictional 14-year-old daughter). He was arrested while allegedly coming to meet up with these fictional folks (i.e., multiple cops). He was arrested along with 30 other men as part of this sting and ended up sitting in jail for three months while gathering bail money.

And that was the last I'd heard of Joe's arrest until this morning. I have no clue what made me think of him, but I decided to check on the status of his case. It turns out that he ended up pleading guilty on 02/12/13 to charges of "using of a computer to solicit, seduce or entice a child to commit sex acts" and "traveling to solicit, seduce or entice a child to commit sex acts." Both charges are felonies. He was sentenced to a five year prison sentence, which will be followed by five years of probation. He is also required to remain on Florida's list of sex offenders. Last thing I read indicated that he is scheduled to be released from prison in May 2017.

I have no idea what I'm trying to communicate with this post. Mainly, I find the need to process his arrest and conviction. I know that these are old charges, but the updates are still fresh for me. But a lot of this is to communicate extreme disappointment in my old friend.

I know that I haven't seen him in over a decade, but I liked the guy. I always thought he had potential. He was smart and friendly and civic-minded and had financial resources. He was great at networking amongst the various statewide LGBT groups and worked hard to provide outreach to local LGBT communities -- particularly in places like northwest Iowa, where there aren't many resources. And then he does something stupid like what he tried to do in Florida (and hopefully he never successfully carried out what he tried to do in Florida) and now every effort he made in the past to serve local LGBT populations (include, of all things, an LGBT teen outreach effort that he operated out of his home!!) are now forever suspect.

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