When Bentley Hawkins found out that the person he planned to have sex with was only 14, it didn’t deter him from attempting to meet with the child.
But upon arriving at the child’s address, Hawkins was arrested by law enforcement in an undercover sting to identify those who wish to exploit children.
A jury found Hawkins guilty Nov. 15 of attempted lewd battery on a child, traveling to meet a minor, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. He is facing 25 years in prison and will be sentenced Jan. 11.
Assistant State Attorney Ralph Guerra told jurors that an undercover detective created an online dating account, pretending to be a 14-year-old child.
Hawkins messaged the detective and began talking about getting together to have sex.
The detective replied, telling Hawkins the child was younger than the posted profile age of 18, was in school, and could not drive until next year.
“Ok,” Hawkins typed, “where are you located?”
He continued to talk to the child about sex, and the two exchanged phone numbers.
The detective then told Hawkins that the child was only 14.
Hawkins replied, “Ok, want to meet?”
When he was arrested by law enforcement, Hawkins was compliant and told deputies he knew why he was being detained.
In trial, Hawkins testified that he remembered seeing the messages about the child being younger than 18 and still in school. He also recalled the messages about the child not being able to drive.
But when asked whether he saw the text message where the child said he was 14, Hawkins claimed he never did.
Yet, cell records show that Hawkins replied to the child asking where they could meet.
“You would have to take your phone out and physically type out every single letter of that phrase in response,” Guerra said. “The kid sent text saying he was 14 and asking if that was OK, and you replied saying ‘Ok, want to meet?’”
In closing arguments, Guerra told the jury it was unreasonable to believe Hawkins was aware of every single text message he received but then missed the one saying the kid was 14-years-old.
“He took his cell phone and typed those words in response to learning he was dealing with a 14-year-old. And he showed up to have sex with a 14-year-old boy,” Guerra said. “Take the defendant by his words in that text message. I ask you to find the defendant guilty as charged.”