Naughton looks set to escape prison

The former Infoseek exec, convicted of arranging sex with a minor online, may be helping authorities nab Internet paedophiles

Former Infoseek executive Patrick Naughton probably won't be going to jail, despite his conviction on charges of travelling across state lines to have sex with a minor. Naughton, 35, who pleaded guilty in March, faces sentencing in federal court Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Normally the charge carries a maximum of 15 years behind bars, but Naughton will get a lighter sentence because he's helping the police nab paedophiles who operate online.

The government plans to ask that Naughton receive five years of probation and substantial restrictions on his contact with children and chat rooms.

Naughton was arrested in September at the Santa Monica Pier after he arranged a rendezvous there with KrisLA, a person he met in the "dad&daughtersex" chat room who claimed to be a 13-year-old girl. KrisLA was really a male FBI agent posing as a pre-teen online.

In a recent court filing, the US Attorney's office requested the lighter sentence "based on Patrick Naughton's substantial assistance to the government". Without the deal, he would have faced 12 to 18 months behind bars because he has no prior criminal record.

If a judge approves the punishment, Naughton will receive five years probation, which includes a nine-month home detention, and he will have to pay a $20,000 fine. Naughton also will be restricted from unapproved contact with children and from visiting sexually oriented chat rooms. In addition, he must continue helping the FBI pursue online criminals.

"This recommendation is based on the significance, usefulness, completeness, timeliness and nature and extent of Naughton's assistance to the government since he pled guilty," the filing states.

The government is asking a judge to keep sealed another document that gives details of Naughton's assistance, saying that releasing it will "substantially impede the government's ability to locate and prosecute child sex offenders". Naughton's guilty plea came just days before he was to face a second trial.

During Naughton's first trial, a jury couldn't decide on the travelling charge or another count accusing him of using a computer to set up the meeting. Throughout the trial, Naughton claimed he didn't believe KrisLA was really 13 years old, in part because "her" replies were often witty, and also because people often assume false identities on the Web. Nearly half of the jurors believed him.

However, the jury declared Naughton guilty of possessing child porn. But that conviction was later overturned after an appeals court ruled in a separate case about what type of pictures could be considered child porn. Naughton spent a weekend in jail before he was released.

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