Sexually-based crimes are some of the most abhorrent to the public at large. As a result, accused sexual offenders throughout Alabama typically face harsh sentences for illegal acts such as sexual assault, child pornography, pedophilia, rape and incest. Being a Birmingham criminal defense attorney serving the residents of Alabama, I understand the stigma associated with these kinds of crimes. Even when a person is acquitted, he or she faces an uphill battle to regain the acceptance of friends, family and their local community.
Defending against cases of criminal sexual behavior is a serious business that requires dedication and an aggressive approach to the law. Not long ago, a man from out-of-state was convicted in an Alabama Federal Courtroom for having sex with a 15-year-old girl here in Alabama. Even with a plea agreement, the man received a staggering 30-year prison sentence.
According to news reports, 49-year-old William Joe Mitchell, a previously-convicted sex offender, met the teen online. Court records show that the man picked her up on October 1, 2007, and drove her into Alabama to have sex.
According to reports, police were able to catch the suspect by analyzing the girl's cellular phone records and found that in the days leading up to her disappearance, she had been communicating frequently with the suspect.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert and she was located the following day at a Walmart in Defuniak Springs, Fla. The girl reportedly told investigators that Mitchell claimed to be 23 years old while chatting with her online and that she realized he was much older when she met him. She claimed that Mitchell had threatened her. Getting into his car, Mitchell drove to a motel in Andalusia where the two had sex.
Mitchell, who was arrested five days later at a truck stop in Virginia, was initially slated to face state charges, but in the end his case was taken over by federal prosecutors. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2008 and transported to Alabama for trial
He pleaded guilty Feb. 5 to one count of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. Mitchell's criminal history apparently included a previous conviction in Florida for lewd or lascivious battery of a victim between 12 and 15 years of age. The sentencing memorandum stated that Mitchell's prior conviction made him potentially eligible for a mandatory life sentence. However, federal prosecutors were unable to rebut Mitchell's claim that the sex was consensual.
Convicted Offender Gets 30 Years for Sex With Polk Girl, 15, TheLedger.com, February 17, 2010