Maybe I haven't thought this through completely yet, but it seems to me that there's a way to solve the quandary over the FBI practice of stinging people who travel to other countries to have sex with kids.

But Muentes' case is different. It is, in law enforcement parlance, "proactive," meaning would-be offenders are apprehended before they strike. That strategy has drawn criticism from defense lawyers who say the tactic amounts to entrapment and punishes what might be no more than a fantasy.

Muentes' attorney, David O. Markus, wrote in a brief that the charges against his client constitute police action against "a person's mere thought to do something abroad."

"I'm all for catching child predators," Markus said. "The problem is instead of netting the real criminals, this sting draws in innocent people like Jorge Muentes."

In a court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rashbaum defended the charges, saying Muentes took concrete steps toward having sexual contact with a teenager by paying for the trip and attempting to board a plane.

"The defendant's actions constitute far more than mere thought," Rashbaum wrote.
The defense has a point--until the defendant gets there and does the abusing, it's possible that he or she might have a change of heart and not actually go through with it. It's unlikely, but it's possible.

But I can't in good conscience argue that we ought to do nothing to stop this, and only charge people once they've abused minors. That's monstrous.

But what if we made the act of contracting for the service the crime? That moves the bar enough that we're still being proactive when it comes to stopping child exploitation, but not charging people for things they haven't actually done? If a lawyer wants to help me out on understanding the issues with this, I'd be grateful.

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