German man jailed on charge he traveled to have sex with a teen

Computer representative called a threat to flee the country by magistrate

April 08, 1999|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF

A German businessman charged with traveling from Boston to Columbia to have sex with a minor was ordered yesterday to remain in jail by a federal magistrate in Baltimore who worried that he would flee to his native country if he were released on bail.

Bodo Jeffrey Mueller, 33, a representative for a German computer company called Data-Becker Corp., was arrested March 27 at The Mall in Columbia by FBI agents working with the "Innocent Images" task force to investigate sex crimes against children.

Court papers accuse Mueller of engaging in several sexually explicit conversations over the Internet during a six-week period with an FBI agent posing as a 14-year-old boy he met in a chat room. Mueller is accused of traveling here to have sex with what he thought was the youth in a hotel room, court papers said.

If convicted of the charge of interstate travel to have sex with a minor, Mueller could face a maximum sentence of 15 years in federal prison, but first-time offenders typically get between one and two years, prosecutors said.

In ordering Mueller to remain under protective custody at the Baltimore City Detention Center and then transferred to a jail on the Eastern Shore, U.S. Magistrate Paul W. Grimm noted that Mueller has no local ties and that the extradition treaty between Germany and the United States does not cover the crime with which the Meersbusch resident is charged.

"I am not persuaded that there are sufficient conditions that would militate against the risk of flight," Grimm said.

Mueller's lawyer, Max Lauten, had suggested that his client, who had his passport seized by FBI agents, be placed on electronic monitoring in an area apartment and that he and his family post a cash bond of about $45,000.

"That should satisfy the court that Mr. Mueller would remain to face trial," Lauten said.

Noting that Mueller had no criminal record in the United States or Germany, Lauten added, "I don't think it is a just result for him to have to spend lots of pretrial time" in jail.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew C. White said that Mueller had said he had sex with other minors in his Internet chats with the FBI agent.

White also said Mueller had no reason not to try to return to Germany.

"I think the risk of flight is absolutely insurmountable," he said.

Grimm said he was ordering Mueller to be held in a jail on the Eastern Shore after his arraignment because conditions at the city's detention center were "horrible."

"Conditions there are recognized to be deplorable," he said.

Pub Date: 4/08/99

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