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Judge in teen sex case takes minister's modem

From his home in Ocala, 67-year-old Arthur J. Garrod liked to conduct Bible studies over the Internet. But investigators say he also used his computer skills for something more sinister: soliciting sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Friday, the ordained minister pleaded no contest to charges he sent a lewd picture to a teen he met in a computer chat room, and then made a date to have sex with her. Instead, he arrived in Tampa to learn his date was actually a computer-savvy male sheriff's deputy.

"I'm not that type of person," Garrod told a judge Friday. "I just got trapped."

Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe refused to withhold a formal finding of guilt on Garrod's record, sentenced him to five years of probation and ordered him to give up his modem, the computer's communication device.

Garrod said he was planning to sell his computer.

"Good idea," Tharpe said.

Prosecutor John Cummings said on April 10 and 11, Garrod went into a computer "chat room" called "Florida Teen Sex" and asked someone he believed to be a 15-year-old girl for oral sex. He said he was 27 and sent her a lewd picture of a man's body. They made a date to meet at Luby's Cafeteria on Nebraska Avenue in Tampa.

April 12, Garrod told his wife he was going to play golf and set out. He was arrested in Tampa and charged with computer pornography and an attempted lewd and lascivious act.

As part of his sentence, Garrod, who is also a retired engineer, must be evaluated to see if sex-offender treatment is warranted and may not have unsupervised contact with children.

His attorney, Ed Campbell, noted that the computer case is a new kind of crime for the court system to handle. The judge disagreed.

"The crime is an attempted lewd and lascivious act on a child," Tharpe said, "and that's been around for a long, long time."