Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Persten Trial
It's been nearly three years since the owner of a Sunrise restaurant was accused of using a computer to try to set up sex with a 13-year-old. His case is just now going to trial. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Brian Persten was busted in a BSO undercover operation called "Home Alone."
He and 14 other men were arrested after police say they used online chat rooms to arrange sex with children. One of the men committed suicide, the rest all admitted guilt, except Brian Persten. He plead not guilty and went to trial claiming he didn't think he was chatting with a 13-year-old.
Persten says he thought he was talking to an adult who was role playing.
Brian Persten: "Yeah, I played right back, like I was being played with."
Joseph Zager: "So you played along?"
Brian Persten: "Yes, sir."
Joseph Zager: "Like you were talking to a child?"
Brian Persten: "Not like I was talking to a child, it was just, well, excuse me. Well, in this case then, yes."
Persten, using the screen name Lolologan asked, 'Where's mom?' after the person wrote she was 13.
Det. Maria Polo Renner: "Lolologan mentions 'Will you touch me?'"
BSO detective Maria Polo Renner, who was doing the chatting, testified it was Persten who started the sex talk and even sent a picture of his erect penis.
Det. Maria Polo Renner: "Lolologan mentions, 'Like it? Want to see it today?'"
Later in the chat Persten told her not to wear panties when they meet.
Det. Maria Polo Renner: "'You can feel the wind better like that without your pan. It's called a brisk walk - LOL.'"
Martha Persten: "I told him to be careful."
Through an interpreter, Persten's wife Martha testified she was sitting next to him while he chatted on their home computer, and when the undercover detective sent a picture of a 13-year-old.
Martha Persten: "And this is when I told him, 'I think, I smell this is police because they made a huge mistake.'"
She said she knew the chat was fake and that the picture sent was an old one because the child was sitting on an old folding chair.
Martha Persten: "I used these kinds of chairs when I was in Puerto Rico, in the year 1979."
As for the penis photo, Mrs. Persten told the jury she was OK with him sending it since he already had it on their computer.
Martha Persten: "I told him if that's the only one you have, she is playing with you, and you are also playing with her so send it, see what happens."
What happened was his arrest on two felony charges sending harmful material, the picture and using a computer for child exploitation.
David Bogenschutz: "It's all just chatting."
Defense attorney David Bogenschutz said it was just a bunch of talk.
David Bogenschutz: "They are not even close to proving that this man knew or believed that he was dealing with a minor."
But prosecutor Joseph Zager disagrees.
Joseph Zager: "He's a 33-year-old man, married with four children, at home going online to meet a child to have sex. End of story. That's against the law."
And that's what the jury believed.
Court clerk: "The defendant is guilty of computer child exploitation."
Persten sat stone-faced when the jury came back with guilty verdicts on both counts. He will be sentenced next month and faces a possible minimum of 25 months in Florida State prison.
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