Man gets lesser term for crime on Internet Home detention ordered for trying to lure girl for sex

November 23, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

An apologetic former member of the Belgian consulate has been sentenced to six months of home detention for trying to lure a 14-year-old girl into a sexual encounter through the Internet.

The supposed teen-ager was an undercover FBI agent who posed as a child online as part of "Innocent Images," a program that sends federal agents into Internet chat rooms in an effort to identify pedophiles and sexual predators.

Georges Debeir, 58, who formerly worked for the Belgian-American Chamber of Commerce in New York City, faced 12 to 18 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines.

Judge William M. Nickerson of U.S. District Court in Baltimore imposed a lesser sentence Friday, noting Debeir's remorse, willingness to get counseling and apparent lack of threat to the community.

"This was, in essence, a victimless crime," Nickerson said, because no evidence was found that Debeir molested a child. The FBI arrested him May 26 at the Gallery at Harborplace after he approached a young-looking female undercover agent he believed was "Kathy," a 14-year-old he had sexually propositioned online.

Nickerson also sentenced Debeir of Garden City, N.Y., to five years' probation and ordered that he not use the Internet while on home detention.

Debeir's federal public defender, Beth M. Farber, said the former consulate member had led an exemplary life that was marred by an urge to act out fantasies on the Internet. She said Debeir never intended to have sex with a minor.

"Most of what this was about was fantasy," Farber said. "Mr. Debeir is clearly very, very remorseful for what happened and he is very ashamed. Clearly, he has some problems, but he's done a lot of good in the world."

Debeir told the judge he recognized what he did was wrong and vowed to continue counseling.

"I am indeed very sorry," he told the judge.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie S. Greenberg disagreed with Farber's view that Debeir was simply acting out a fantasy. She noted that Debeir made explicit comments to "Kathy" online saying he would pay her $150 for sexual favors.

Greenberg also called as a witness a 14-year-old girl from Syracuse, N.Y., who testified that she had met Debeir online and that he had tried to get her to meet him at a mall in New York in February.

A forensic psychologist who evaluated Debeir reported that Debeir could not explain his "volatile, nasty" behavior. Psychologist David L. Shapiro wrote that Debeir told him he "shudders at the vile transcripts" of the conversations he had with "Kathy."

"It is hard to believe that it was me when I read the transcripts," Debeir was quoted as saying. "I find them repulsive."

Pub Date: 11/23/98

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