Articles Posted in Internet Sex Crimes

An Oakland County Circuit Court Judge has awarded a judgement of $100,000 to a plaintiff who claimed her ex-boyfriend falsely told her that he secretly recorded sexually explicit videos of her and posted them online. It was never proven that the videos were ever posted, and the Court specifically reasoned that it didn’t matter if the sexually explicit videos were posted or not. It was the threat of posting the videos that resulted in this judgement. In 2014, the state of Michigan enacted what is commonly known as the “Revenge Porn” statute. Revenge porn, also known by its more legalese term, “non-consensual pornography,” generally outlaws people sharing sexually explicit images or videos without the consent of the subject in the images or videos. What is evident here is that the false threat of sharing these types of images or videos can lead to a criminal conviction under the statute and can cost you a boatload of money.

Case History

Back in April of 2018, the defendant in this case allegedly sent text messages to the plaintiff, his ex-girlfriend, telling her that he secretly recorded sexually explicit videos of her and shared them online. He claimed that he took these videos of them having sex while they were together, and he shared the videos online on a pornography website without ever seeking consent. The defendant also told her that the video went viral, being watched hundreds of thousands of times, even being viewed by her co-workers and friends. The plaintiff in this case then sought a personal protection order from the defendant, and ultimately moved out of state in an effort to get away from all of potential social consequences of what had allegedly been posted online. The plaintiff in this case stated that due to the information that this video was posted online she suffered from severe mental anguish, was at one point bed ridden, and also sought professional help in the form of therapy. What makes this case different from others, however, is that no sexually explicit material had ever actually been posted. The plaintiff’s attorney found during his investigation online doing reverse google image searches that the defendant never actually posted anything as he claimed. What they learned was that the defendant simply lied about it in order to cause the plaintiff severe emotional distress, and he succeeded. This discovery obviously led to a change in the legal approach and strategy that the plaintiff’s attorney took. The plaintiff’s attorney then sought to have the legal theory changed to that of an intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defense’s simple argument was that the plaintiff didn’t experience enough emotional distress to rise to the level needed to win a money judgement. The defense then filed a motion for summary judgement asking for a dismissal of the case stating that there was not enough evidence for the case to continue forward to a trial. The Oakland County Circuit Court Judge disagreed, stating that there was an issue of fact that a jury should hear to determine if money damages should be awarded. The defendant’s attorney claimed that shortly after that, he started to lose contact with his client, and ultimately, in November of 2019 which was one week before trial, the defendant’s attorney was allowed to withdraw as counsel because he had allegedly lost contact with his client. When the trial date came and neither the defendant, nor an attorney showed up to defend the case and conduct a trial and default judgement in the amount of $100,000 was entered against the defendant.

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 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.

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In March of this year, 33-year-old Ashlee Liebert of Whitmore Lake was caught with a young girl in a car in Buffalo, W. Virginia along Cross Creek Road according to Putnam County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Alan Savilla. Savilla told news reporters at the time that as he approached the car, he observed the suspect was totally naked and raising up above what he believed to be a girl who was approximately 10 to 12 years old. She was naked from the waist down, according to Savilla.

Liebert was arrested at the time and charged with third-degree sexual assault along with sex abuse by a parent or guardian. At the time of the arrest, investigators did not collect DNA evidence. Liebert’s attorney Duane Rosenlieb scolded investigators for failing to collect evidence, saying that any DNA evidence was now completely unavailable as he questioned detectives in the case.

According to news reports, Liebert and the young girl met online while playing “World of Warcraft.” Over a five month period, the two allegedly developed a relationship which led to the meeting in W. Virginia. Police claim that Liebert confessed to having met other girls on the Internet.

On Monday October 29th Liebert pleaded guilty to traveling to W. Virginia to have sex with a minor. Liebert entered his plea in Huntington federal court according to federal prosecutors. In a search of Liebert’s home in March, videos of minors engaging in sexual acts and hundreds of images were found according to officials.

Liebert is scheduled to be sentenced on February 11. According to the FBI website, Liebert will be sentenced by United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers, and faces a $250,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.

Michigan sexual assault attorneys understand that the penalties for those convicted on sexual assault charges are severe. While substantial fines and prison time are extremely harsh, perhaps the requirement to register as a sex offender is worst of all. Registered sex offenders lose their privacy, employment opportunities and the freedom to choose where they live.

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Joseph Ostrowski, a former high school football coach at Catholic High School in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, has been charged with tricking people into sex acts using the internet, specifically through Skype and Facebook. According to news reports, Ostrowski was charged in Pennsylvania in May with producing child pornography.

Ostrowski, who is 29 years old, remains in jail awaiting trial on the earlier charges. He was indicted by a Grand Rapids grand jury on Wednesday, August 29th, on one count of cyber-stalking. In May Ostrowski was charged with one count each of interstate communications of threats and sexual exploitation of children by Pennsylvania authorities.

According to prosecutors, Ostrowski used an electronic device to threaten a minor’s reputation with the intention of extorting money; he also used that device to transmit electronically the sexually explicit conduct he had enticed the minor to perform. These incidents allegedly occurred between December 31, 2011 and April 18, 2012.

The new indictment relates to the use of Skype and Facebook in which Ostrowski allegedly “took over” the Facebook accounts of individuals and subsequently blocked them from gaining access to their accounts. While residing in Pennsylvania, he allegedly used the hacked Facebook accounts to communicate with individuals in East Lansing, posing as the original Facebook account holders. Once in communication with residents, he persuaded them to perform sexually explicit acts over an internet video-telephone service, Skype. He recorded these acts and sent images to various other Facebook accounts from those that he originally compromised.

News reports state that it is not clear whether the Michigan and Pennsylvania cases are related.

Sex-related crimes are serious offenses which could result in substantial prison time and fines for those convicted. Michigan sex crimes defense attorneys know that without skilled legal representation, an individual’s life, career and reputation may be ruined forever.

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A man lured into a sex sting has been found competent to stand trial and will appear Friday in Livingston County Circuit Court. The Detroit man was one of nine men caught in an undercover sex sting targeting individuals who use the internet to send pictures or explicit materials to minors.

With the proliferation of chat rooms and social networking sites, law enforcement agencies have increasingly set up “stings” by attempting to lure otherwise law-abiding citizens into inappropriate conversations with minors. When officers entice individuals into downloading or sharing inappropriate images over the internet, this may be used as evidence of criminal conduct, such as solicitation of a minor. However, if the police overstep their authority and violate individual’s rights, the defense of entrapment may be used to gain an acquittal or dismissal of an internet sex crimes charge.

In Michigan, entrapment occurs when the police engage in impermissible conduct that would induce a law-abiding citizen under similar circumstances to commit the crime, or police engage in conduct so reprehensible that it cannot be tolerated by the court.

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