Va. lawyer suspended in Md.

Man was charged with intent to have sex with teens he met online

April 20, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A patent lawyer has been indefinitely suspended from practicing law in Maryland by the Court of Appeals after he was arrested and charged with crossing state lines to engage in sexual activity with a minor solicited over the Internet.

In a 4-2 decision, the court ruled yesterday that the conduct of James F. Childress, of Arlington, Va., undermines the public's confidence in the legal system.

"Imposition of a penalty more significant than a reprimand is needed to deter similar future conduct by [Childress] and to serve notice on the members of the Bar at large that this type of conduct by an officer of this Court will not be tolerated," Judge Lawrence F. Rodowsky wrote in the decision.

From 1993 through 1995, Childress would use the screen name "Fearless" and target underage girls, generally between 13 and 16, in America Online chat rooms, according to the ruling. He persuaded five girls to meet with him after asking whether they wanted to have sex, the ruling also said. But no sexual contact took place, the court records said.

Childress, a member of the bar for more than 10 years, was arrested in 1995 after an FBI agent posed as a 14-year-old girl in a chat room and arranged to meet Childress in Bethesda.

At his criminal trial, Childress had maintained that he would not have had sexual contact with the girls but acknowledged that he would fantasize about minor females, according to the ruling.

Childress was found guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, of proscribing interstate travel with intent to engage in a sexual act with a minor. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit reversed the conviction on a technicality.

However, in August, the state high court determined that a lawyer can be sanctioned for conduct that is not related to practicing law and that a criminal conviction is not necessary for such disciplinary proceedings.

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