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CLEARWATER MAN ACCUSED OF SEX WITH 15-YEAR-OLD

A 20-year-old Clearwater man was arrested Sunday night on a charge of lewd and lascivious battery after police say he molested a 15-year-old Largo girl he met on MySpace.com.

Brandon O. Henderson, of 5025 Foxbridge Circle, first made contact with the girl in November 2009 over the Internet, and they developed a relationship over the next five months, according to an arrest report. The two began dating on April 21. On April 24, Henderson had sexual contact with the 15-year-old for the first time at her house while her parents were at work, the report said. He said he had sex with the girl only once, but the girl told police they had sex five to seven times. It is unclear who reported the situation to Largo police.

After he was arrested, Henderson said he had thought the girl was 16 before the first time he had sex with her. But he admitted that he knew her real age after their first sexual encounter, the arrest report said. The age of consent in Florida is 18, but a close-in-age exemption exists. According to state statute, the exception permits a person 23 or younger to engage in legal sexual activity with a minor 16 or 17.

On Monday, Henderson was being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Martine Powers can be reached at mpowers@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4224.

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