On Tuesday December 3, 38-year-old Thabet Mahdi Saleh of Grand Rapids pleaded guilty to soliciting young girls for sex using Facebook, according to a news article at Mlive.com. Because of his guilty plea, Saleh could escape serving prison time.
Saleh agreed to a plea deal in which two charges would be dropped in exchange for his pleading guilty to accosting a child using a computer. He was initially charged with accosting children for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime in connection with using the social media site to solicit three girls who were 13 and 14 years old for sex.
Police claim Saleh used Facebook sometime between September and October of last year to offer the girls money in exchange for sex; the girls reportedly live in Comstock Park and Wyoming. Saleh initially turned down a plea agreement offered by prosecutors. Had he gone to trial and been convicted of the charges, he would have faced up to 10 years in prison. A probable cause affidavit revealed that the origin of the messages sent to the girls were traced to Saleh after police obtained records from his Internet services provider.
Saleh’s trial was scheduled for December 2, but he decided to admit to the charges instead. News reports indicate that Saleh will likely avoid prison time, and will instead be placed on probation and required to register as a sex offender. His sentencing is scheduled for January 22; he remains free on a $30,000 personal recognizance bond.
Sex offenses are punished harshly in Michigan; penalties often include any number of years up to life in prison, substantial fines, and other consequences. For many, having to register as a sex offender is the most damaging punishment of all. Registered sex offenders face many difficulties which include not only a ruined reputation and career, but restrictions on where they can live or even work.