Lee attorney discusses charges of sexual offenders in ‘Operation Picket Fence’

Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Lee County Sheriff’s Office

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday that 18 people were arrested for preying on children as a result of “Operation Picket Fence.”

The operation targeted individuals that use social media to prey on children and solicit them for sex.

Previous story: Online predator sting nets 18 arrests for soliciting children for sex in Lee County

Three of the suspects, including 50-year-old Paul Newport who had been arrested two years ago for luring a child to have sex, were already registered sex offenders.

Newport had been previously arrested as part of a major sting in 2016 and had been sentenced to serve 54 months of probation.

WINK News spoke with criminal experts to find out why sexual predators don’t face harsher punishments.

Lee County attorney Michael Chinopolous was not surprised by the arrest of repeat sexual offenders like Newport, but said undercover operations give investigators and the State Attorney’s Office the proof they need to convict.

Detectives often pose as children online to start a conversation and catch suspects.

“The evidence is in fact admissible and can be used to prosecute people who prey upon our children,” Chinopolous said.

Lee County mother Maxine Gaddis hopes these suspects will be given harsher punishments.

“If you have taken it that far to lure children in and you’ve been arrested for it already, I feel like there should be stricter laws, you shouldn’t be getting out,” Gaddis said. “Put them in there and throw away the key.”

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