Our client was a First Class Petty officer who was caught up in a NCIS To Catch a Predator (TCAP) sting operation. This controversial type of operation is one in which a NCIS agent takes on the persona of a minor seeking to chat online with an adult for sex. After chatting with the undercover NCIS agent, the Sailor drove to the bait house with condoms. He was then arrested and confessed to military law enforcement.
He was charged with attempted sexual assault of a minor in violation of Article 120, UCMJ. The government quickly offered a plea agreement of 24 months confinement and a punitive discharge. Court martial lawyer Tim Bilecki was retained to try the case before a jury. At the court martial, our team ardently argued against NCIS’ entrapment of our client. The jury chose to convict; however, the sentence he received was six months lower than he would have received had he plead guilty. This case was a perfect example of why, even if the evidence in the case is overwhelming, you can still come out ahead trying the case to members as opposed to simply pleading guilty. In addition, our client had significant appellate issues preserved because the case was tried as opposed to waived had it been a plea agreement.