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Time Served, Treatment, for Electronic Solicitation

Doctors don't believe Bryant Frederick O'Neill gets turned on by children. But it's another matter when it comes to young, teen-age girls.

In jail since January after pleading guilty to electronic solicitation of a minor, he was sentenced Friday to time served, probation and sex-offender treatment.

Circuit Court Judge Kathleen MacKay also forbid O'Neill from spending time alone with adolescent females. And in his case, she said, "I'm so glad there wasn't a real girl involved."

O'Neill, 59, of Route 2, Box 820, in Harper's Ferry, W. Va., first caught the attention of Fairfax County police when he began corresponding online with a "girl" named Jenn, who said she was 13. In reality, his electronic pal was Det. Lewis Barrickman with the Child Exploitation Unit.

Shaving a few years off his age, O'Neill claimed to be 40. When he entered his plea, Jan. 4, in Circuit Court, Barrickman testified. He said O'Neill first contacted him on Nov. 19, 2001, eventually suggesting that he and Jenn meet for oral sodomy.

But the day of the meeting, July 1, 2004, O'Neill got cold feet and called it off. Then he changed his mind and, when he arrived at their meeting place in Centreville, Barrickman arrested him. The detective said O'Neill later "admitted he was the person I'd been communicating with online, all these years."

O'Neill returned to Circuit Court, last Friday, April 1, for sentencing. Dr. Michael Deem, a clinical psychologist who'd performed a sexual evaluation of him, testified about his findings.

Deem discussed the difference between preferential and situational offenders. He said preferential offenders prefer to be with children and often have jobs and hobbies placing them into contact with children. And they often possess child pornography and erotica.

Situational offenders, as he classified O'Neill, generally solicit juveniles "for other reasons," said Deem. "Often, it's a maladaptive attempt to cope with stress or alcohol or to substitute for a sexual partner."

He said O'Neill had a "history of inadequate, adult, sexual relationships" and "there was no indication that he was a preferential offender." But he said O'Neill definitely needed sex-offender treatment.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Marc Birnbaum asked if soliciting minors for sex is "essentially a crime of opportunity." Replied Deem: "I suppose so; I never thought of it that way." Concerning O'Neill, he said, "there's no sexual deviancy in terms of a sexual preference for children. At the time it's happening, there has to be some sexual arousal."

However, in specific tests, said the doctor, O'Neill "endorsed two distortions of sexual feelings about 13-year-olds." Asked Birnbaum: "Does he think of Jenn, not as a child, but as someone who's sexually mature?"

Replying affirmatively, Deem said O'Neill believed that girls this age could consent to sex and it was all right to flirt with them — "and that's why he needs treatment."

Before O'Neill was sentenced, Birnbaum told Judge MacKay that police, and Barrickman in particular, go online in undercover capacities "to find and ferret out these people so the sex-crimes detectives won't have to deal with a real victim. And often, juveniles run away and meet [these solicitors] for sex."

"This defendant doesn't think of 13-year-old Jenn as a child," continued the prosecutor. "[He] was meeting this girl for sexual activity — oral sex — to victimize a young teen-ager. It's a serious offense, and I ask you to punish him accordingly."

Defense attorney Lance Gardner said O'Neill was in jail since Jan. 4 and "took two years and eight months" before actually arranging a meeting with the "teen." Said Gardner: "This isn't your usual predator. Mr. O'Neill's admitted it and has done everything he can to address the problem."

Emphasizing that his client's 59 and has no prior criminal record, Gardner said, "He had plenty of time to get in trouble, if he was prone to do so." Requesting a sentence in the four-month range, he said, "I think, with the proper supervision, he could be returned to society."

Then O'Neill stood and apologized. He told MacKay, "Words can't express how much I regret putting myself into this whole situation."

"You've lived a good life, and I believe you're amenable to treatment," replied the judge. She then sentenced O'Neill to four years in prison, suspending the entire time, except for the amount he's already served in jail.

MacKay also placed him on two years active probation, ordered him to undergo sex-offender treatment and have "no unsupervised contact with adolescent females." Afterward, Birnbaum said it was fortunate that Jenn was actually a police detective because "the defendant did have the intent to commit a sexual act that took advantage of a real victim."