It's common for sex crime cases involving solicitation of a minor to start with a sting operation, with law enforcement officers going online and pretending to be an underage youth.
That's what happened in 2019 when 41-year-old police detective Darrick Dunn played the role of a teen boy on the dating app Grindr and struck up a conversation with a 39-year-old Texas teacher. Dunn made the proposition, asking if the man was looking for “something” tonight.
When the teacher asked his age, Dunn said “under 18.” Seventeen is the age of consent in Texas. Dunn's mark continued to ask about his age and eventually Dunn said he was 14.
They agreed to meet the next day, but the teacher was suspicious and asked for a voice message first. He would later write in a note that was read by his family that he knew after hearing Dunn's voice that he was an adult pretending to be a teen… that inconsistencies in the “youth's” story clued him in to the deception during that first call.
In other words, he knew the romantic hookup would be with an adult who was lying or playing a game.
Unfortunately, that didn't matter.
Online Solicitation of a Minor Charges
When the teacher and the police detective met, the teacher was arrested and charged with online solicitation of a minor. Believing he couldn't recover from the damage to his career and reputation, the unfortunate teacher took his own life.
His family, and their lawyer, believe that if he had fought the criminal charges, he could have been exonerated. His family has filed a federal lawsuit against the police department. Their loved one wasn't going online looking for sex with a minor. He was caught up in a “dragnet” set for gay men.
Where was the evidence in this case?
- He was propositioned; he didn't do the propositioning.
- A search of his phone and computer turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
- He had no prior criminal charges and no known record of misconduct.
- The voice message from the detective wasn't stored. The family believes this would have been key to proving the teacher's innocence.
While the public doesn't know every fact in this case – it never went to trial — it looks at this time like the teacher was a random target of a sex crimes sting. He may not have exercised the best judgment; he paid dearly for that lapse. If you are facing sex crimes charges or solicitation or online solicitation of a minor, talk with a Texas criminal defense lawyer at Maddox Law. Call 972-546-2496 or contact us online. You will never find a lawyer who will fight harder for you.