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Five years ago, Internet sex crime allegations made up about 5% of Brad Bailey’s criminal defense practice. Now it’s at 20%. “That’s a significant number for an attorney that does all matters of criminal defense law � not just white collar, not just high profile,” said Bailey, a partner in the Boston office of Denner Pellegrino. He’s not alone. Criminal defense lawyers across the country said sex crimes involving the Internet � such as online child pornography or using the Internet to solicit sex from minors � are becoming a growing part of their workload. The increase has in part been fueled by a law enforcement crackdown. In Oklahoma City, Bob Wyatt estimated that during the last five years, he has been handling about 40 to 50 cases a year involving Internet sex allegations, compared to a couple of cases a year earlier. Wyatt of the Wyatt Law Office lists “cyber sex crimes” as a practice area on his Web site. He says this practice area is still not large enough to sustain an attorney’s workload by itself, but now makes up about 20% of his cases. “We’re seeing that most of these cases that are actually prosecuted are sting operations,” Wyatt said. Driven by crackdowns Bailey of Denner Pellegrino said there could be several reasons why Internet sex cases are on the rise. “Whether it’s the product of, for lack of a better word, watch groups on the Internet, or in some extreme cases, almost citizen vigilantism on the Internet or proactiveness in terms of sting operations by undercover police officers, we’re seeing these cases on an increasing basis,” said Bailey, who is currently representing Scott Simoncini, a teacher who pleaded not guilty in January after being accused of allegedly distributing obscene material to a minor over the Internet. Massachusetts v. Simoncini, No . 0861CR140 (Worcester Co., Mass., Dist. Ct.). A number of states and government agencies have task forces dedicated to going after Internet sex crimes. In Arizona, for example, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a multiagency network, has handled more than 3,000 investigations since 1998. In Colorado, the district attorney for Jefferson and Gilpin counties has announced, through its Child Sex Offender Internet Investigation unit, a number of cases in January alone, including an arrest of a 20-year-old man for allegedly having sexual contact with a 12-year-old girl he met over the Internet, and arrests of a 27-year-old man and a 23-year-old man in separate cases involving Internet luring of children. Kurt W. Gransee of San Antonio’s Rush & Gransee said Internet sex cases are still only a small part of his practice, but the growth in cases may be partly due to the type of clients involved in them, he said. Unlike clients accused of some other crimes, they can often afford lawyers, Gransee said. “Very often the people tend to be more educated and have higher incomes than those who may commit theft or drug crimes,” said Gransee, whose firm’s Web site says it has “experienced Texas Internet sex crimes lawyers.” Criminal defense lawyers said these cases can often be costly to defend because of the need for computer forensics experts, who can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $25,000 per case. Joseph Rotella, a solo practitioner in Newark, N.J., whose Web site states he is a “Newark Internet sex crimes lawyer,” estimated he handles about 20 to 40 such cases a year. “Is it a growing aspect of a criminal defense lawyer’s practice?” he said. “I believe it is because the more that is investigated and prosecuted by governmental agencies � be it federal or local or state agencies � obviously you will be having more people who need lawyers to defend them.” Stephen G. Rodriguez of Los Angeles’ Stephen G. Rodriguez & Associates, which handles all types of criminal defense law, said Internet cases � including those with sex allegations � now make up about 25% of his practice. That percentage will likely continue to increase as new laws regulating cyberspace get passed, such as recent legislation against cyberstalking. “Internet is advancing at such a fast rate that there is still not enough laws to parallel what is going on on the Internet,” Rodriguez said. About one in seven youth between ages 10 and 17 have received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, according to a report by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center’s CyberTipline � which reports tips on allegations of online sexual exploitation � has received more than 550,000 tips since 1998.

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