Detective Was Pretending To Be 13-Year-Old Girl, Prosecutors Say

MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A registered sex offender from Morristown, New Jersey was convicted at trial Thursday of exposing himself on a webcam to an undercover detective posing as a 13-year-old girl.

A Morris County jury found Thomas W. Phillips, 34, guilty of attempting to endanger the welfare of a child, and attempting to transmit obscene materials to a person under 18. The verdict followed a weeklong trial before Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson.

Prosecutors alleged at trial that on Feb. 24, 2010, Phillips exposed his penis online via webcam to an undercover Burlington County Prosecutor’s office detective, who was posing as a 13-year-old girl. He lay on his bed completely naked and exposed himself three times to the girl during the 17-minute chat, prosecutors said.

Phillips used the screen name that included “bigyouknowwhat” during the chat, while the detective used a screen name containing a girl’s name and the number 13, prosecutors said.

The detective assumed the persona of a girl and told Phillips she was 13, prosecutors said. Phillips apologized after exposing himself and admitted he knew she was too young, but kept exposing himself – saying the camera had accidentally moved, prosecutors said.

At the time, Phillips was on probation for a prior conviction stemming from a similar incident in 2006. He was sentenced to three years’ probation in that incident the following year, on a charge of attempted criminal sexual assault for instructing another undercover police detective posing as an underage girl to touch herself sexually, prosecutors said.

Phillips is a member of the U.S. Merchant Marine, prosecutors said.

“Every parent fears that their young child will encounter a sexual predator like Phillips online and be exposed to his deviant behavior,” Acting New Jersey State Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a news release. “Phillips is a two-time perpetrator of this type of crime, and with this verdict, we will be seeking the maximum prison sentence available.”

“This case should serve as a strong warning to those who believe they can use the cloak of cyberspace to remain undetected while preying on children,” Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi said in the release. “Law enforcement officers are on patrol in your world and are committed to protecting the vulnerable population you seek to exploit for perverted pleasure.”

If convicted, Phillips could be sentenced to three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 on each count against him, authorities said.

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