SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- A transvestite convicted of trying to have sex with children was ordered freed from prison by an appellate panel who ruled that police used the Internet to entrap him.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Mark Poehlman, 40, was lured into crime by an undercover agent offering the possibility of a family if Poehlman would agree to teach three girls how to have sex.
The agent contacted Poehlman through an Internet service for people with ''alternative'' sexual identities, according to the court.
''There is surely enough real crime in our society that it is unnecessary for our law enforcement officials to spend months luring an obviously lonely and confused individual to cross the line between fantasy and criminality,'' Judge Alex Kozinski wrote Tuesday.
Poehlman's attorney, Edward M. Robinson, said the ruling would discourage authorities from targeting homosexuals and bisexuals in their search for pedophiles.
Kozinski said Poehlman was apparently lonely when he saw an ad placed by the agent posing as ''Sharon'' in 1995. He had been divorced by his wife and forced into early retirement by the Air Force after revealing that he could not control his cross-dressing compulsion.
Over the next six months, she prompted him to graphically describe how he would have sex with her children.
Poehlman was arrested in 1996 after he traveled to California to meet Sharon and the children. He spent 120 days in jail.
In 1998, he was convicted on federal charges of crossing state lines to have sex with a child.
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