Fall From Grace

Fall From Grace

There wasn’t an actual victim in the prosecution’s case against Dr. Timothy Fitzpatrick, 54. But there could have been.

And she could have been a 13-year-old girl from Centreville named Jen, who plays soccer and joins Internet chat rooms.

A jury convicted Fitzpatrick last Wednesday for using a computer to solicit sexual acts from a minor. Police arrested the veterinarian in March 2005, after he drove four hours from Vestal, New York to meet “Jen” at a Centreville park.

Fairfax Police Detective Lewis Barrickman, of the Child Exploitation Unit, creates identities as minors on the Internet in order to investigate Internet crimes against children. Although he doesn’t engage in communal discussions in chatrooms, he monitors what’s being said.

Using Instant Message, Fitzpatrick contacted “Jen” directly and Barrickman responded on March 17, 2004. “My job is to tell them, if I am asked, what my age is,” Barrickman said.

“Mine, be 14 Aug. 20. If that freaks you, sorry,” Barrickman wrote.

Fitzpatrick’s replies became sexual, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Katherine E. Stott. Fitzpatrick asked questions such as “Did she have a boyfriend,” and “was she developed,” as well as proposing sexual intercourse and oral sodomy.

Fitzpatrick and “Jen” chatted for hours the week of March 17 to March 24 last year before arranging to meet.

“Her age was given within the first two minutes of that first chat and the defendant continues the conversation,” Stott said. “He used the term, ‘I want to make a woman out of you. Is that something you say to a woman?’”

Fitzpatrick testified that he thought “Jen” was an adult who was roll playing with him. The chatroom he initially entered was one he thought was for adults.

“I thought I was coming to Virginia to meet an adult, a person who had been roll playing with me,” he said.

When Stott asked if he would have had sex with a 13-year-old, he testified, “Absolutely not, I would have driven away as fast as I could.”

“I never conveyed I was an adult,” said Barrickman, the detective crafting “Jen’s” responses.

When police searched Fitzpatrick’s computer, they found no evidence of child pornography or links to child pornography, Barrickman testified, adding that police do expect to find such links in cases like this.

Defense attorney Jonathan Zwerling suggested, in closing arguments, that police entrapped Fitzpatrick.

He likened police catching Fitzpatrick to a tuna fisherman not taking measures to preventing from catching dolphins or porpoises. “How does that bring in pedophiles instead of the innocent?” Zwerling said.

Fitzpatrick’s adult children, fiancee, brother and former employees testified to Fitzpatrick’s commitment to his career, community involvement, and successes as a father during the sentencing phase of the trial.

“This is a man, who in a small community, was a grand figure, a hero to many. That’s why you can trust there is zero need, zero need for incarceration in this case,” Andrea Moseley, an attorney for Fitzpatrick, said during the sentencing portion of the trial. “Put into your mind that we have no idea what he would have done if he found an actual child there.”

But Fitzpatrick initiated contact, and continued contact after “Jen” said she was 13 years old, Stott said, proposing years in prison for Fitzpatrick.

The jury recommended a sentence of 12 months in jail.

Judge Jane Marum Roush is scheduled to formally sentence Fitzpatrick in May. Roush allowed Fitzpatrick to remain free on bond until his sentencing hearing.