Man pleads guilty in MySpace indecent liberties case
Posted March 17, 2009 11:09 a.m. EDT
Updated March 17, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A Cary man will spend six months in jail and receive probation after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to taking indecent liberties with a 12-year-old Sanford boy he met on MySpace.
Dakota Walter Lee Melton, 22, was charged in August with one count of felony taking indecent liberties with children and one felony count of second-degree kidnapping in connection with the July 13 crime.
He was sentenced to 40 to 56 months in jail for both charges, but the sentence is suspended in lieu of a six-month active sentence in the Wake County jail and 48 months of probation to be served in Culpeper County, Va., where Melton has been living with his sister.
"You will not see my client here again because he is absolutely terrified of going to prison," Melton's attorney, Pete Wood, told Judge Cressie Thigpen.
Wake County Assistant District Attorney Adam Moyers said in court that Melton met the boy, now 13, on MySpace, then arranged a face-to-face meeting and eventually took him back to his apartment, where the boy fell asleep on the couch.
Moyers said the boy told his parents that he was going to a friend's house but when he did not return home, the parents called the police and found information about Melton on MySpace.
According to search warrants, about an hour after the boy's mother called Melton's phone number, the boy returned home with a hickey on his neck.
Melton admitted that he and the boy kissed but said they did not have sex, Moyers said.
"Mr. Melton indicated he was unaware the victim was in fact 12-years-old," Moyers said. "He thought he was older, based upon his MySpace profile.
At the time of Melton's arrest, the boy's page listed him as 18 years old, but under state law, the responsibility lies with adults to know whether the person they are with is of the age of consent.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the boy's MySpace page has him listed as being 19 years old.
"I'm not going to try to minimize what happened or to try to rationalize it in any way. It's a horrible thing," Wood said. "My client realizes that. He's accepting full responsibility today."
Also under his plea, Melton must register as a sex offender, enroll in a sex-offender control program while in jail, undergo mental health counseling and pay $8,900 in restitution to the victim for counseling and $1,650 for his court-appointed attorney. He is also not allowed to have any unsupervised contact with minors.
Moyer said after court Tuesday that the case serves as a strong reminder about Internet safety.
"I don't believe that children have a right to privacy in their parents' home," Moyers said.
Despite improved security features designed to help protect children on social networking sites, Internet safety experts say much of the responsibility to protect children falls on parents because there will always be flaws.
"People don't realize or don't think when they're posting something on there that literally anybody can see it," said Jason Ice, a detective with the Cary Police Department's Cyber Crimes unit.
"We even go so far as to recommend, if possible, they have the passwords to these different accounts and they log on to these accounts on occasion," he said.