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Federal jury finds Iowa man guilty of attempting to meet a minor for sex
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Federal jury finds Iowa man guilty of attempting to meet a minor for sex

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A federal jury on Wednesday returned guilty verdicts on two charges against a man who in November was arrested after he was caught in an online sting set up by federal agents to capture people trying to engage in sex with minors.

Joseph Allen Wilcher, 40, of Cedar Rapids, was found guilty of one count each of attempted enticement of a minor and travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity after a two-day trial in U.S. District Court, Peoria.

Wilcher was arrested Nov. 13 after he drove to Rock Island to meet a person he thought was a 15-year-old girl. The conversations began Nov. 9 over a mobile dating app and then moved to text messages.

Wilcher faces a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years for the enticement charge. He faces a possible maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the charge of traveling to engage in illicit sexual activity.

It will be up to the U.S. District Court Judge James Shadid, who presided over the trial, to determine if the sentences on the two charges will run back-to-back or at the same time. A sentencing date had not been set Wednesday, according to U.S. District Court electronic records. There is no parole in the federal prison system.

Wilcher was one of nine men arrested in the November sting. The sting began Nov. 9, when an FBI online covert employee was conducting an undercover investigation on the online marketplace Craigslist by placing an advertisement on the Quad-Cities Missed Connections section.

The dispositions of the other cases:

• Michael Robert McKinney, 23, of Silvis was sentenced July 20 to a term of 144 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow during a hearing in U.S. District Court, Rock Island. Darrow also sentenced McKinney to serve 20 years on supervised release after he completes his prison sentence. McKinney pleaded guilty March 11 to a charge of attempted enticement of a minor.

• Charles Walter Christopher, 43, of West Liberty, Iowa, is a convicted sex offender currently serving a term of supervised release related to a similar case in the Southern District of Iowa. He pleaded guilty Aug. 5 to charges of attempted enticement of a minor to engage in illicit sexual activity and travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity. Sentencing is set for Dec. 15.

• Nicholas Bryan Swank, 32, of Muscatine is a convicted sex offender. During a hearing July 8 in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, Swank pleaded guilty to one count each of attempted enticement of a minor, travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity and soliciting an obscene visual depiction of a minor. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 16 in U.S. District Court, Rock Island. He remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

• Jeffrey Alan Bosaw, of Bloomington, Illinois, who was 52 at the time of his arrest, is charged with attempted enticement of a minor. His trial had been scheduled for Oct. 4 in U.S. District Court, Rock Island. On Sept. 29, U.S. District Court Judge Sara Darrow ordered Bosaw to undergo a mental health evaluation not to exceed 30 days.

• Douglas Michael Speer, of Johnston, Iowa, who was 30 at the time of his arrest, pleaded guilty June 10 to two counts of attempted enticement of a child and one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual activity. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 20 in U.S. District Court, Rock Island.

• Auston M. McLain, 36, of Davenport is charged with attempted enticement of a minor, travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual activity and soliciting an obscene visual depiction of a minor. According to court documents, McLain was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Metropolitan Detention Center, in Los Angeles. According to court documents, the evaluation should have been completed by Sept. 9, with the final report ready for the court by Sept. 30.

• Douglas L. Christensen, 56, of East Moline pleaded guilty July 13 to a charge of attempted enticement of a minor. He is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 3 in U.S. District Court, Rock Island.

• Damien Pernell Shepherd of Moline, who was 35 at the time of his arrest, is charged with attempted enticement of a minor. His trial had been scheduled for Oct. 4 in U.S. District Court, Rock Island. His attorney, Federal Public Defender Thomas Patton, has filed a motion to suppress the statements that Shepherd made to agents in the case. Patton argues that Shepherd told authorities he wished to invoke his right to remain silent at the time he was arrested. However, authorities kept up a dialogue with Shepherd on other topics. Patton argues that Shepherd is intellectually disabled and was “manipulated” into using one of the officer’s phones to call his mother, which the agents allegedly overheard and recorded to obtain evidence. Patton argues that the agents’ continued dialogue with Shepherd and alleged “sardonic remarks” about his refusing to speak with agents eventually broke the man’s will and he spoke with agents without an attorney present. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sara Darrow ordered federal prosecutors to respond to Patton’s motion by Oct. 25.

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