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Florida grand jury dismisses conspiracy to kidnap charges

A Largo man will not face a charge of conspiring to kidnap a child after a federal grand jury decided not to charge him. The grand jury decided that the evidence did not support the U.S. Attorney's Office's contention that the man planned to kidnap a child from his church and cannibalize him. Though the grand jury did indict the man on charges of possessing child pornography, the dropping of the more serious criminal charge takes away the possibility of a life sentence for the 57-year-old defendant.

Authorities arrested the man in July. To support their charge of conspiracy to kidnap, federal prosecutors pointed to a conversation the defendant had with someone in another state via instant messenger. In the messages, the man spoke of a desire to take a child he knew from his church, kill, cook and consume him, prosecutors claimed.

Though disturbing, the defendant's attorney said, the story did not rise to the level of an actual plan. He compared it with gruesome but fictional works like "The Silence of the Lambs." Other legal observers agreed. Another Florida criminal defense attorney said that a defendant must have taken some action for a conspiracy to exist. If there is only "mere words" such as the instant message transcripts, there is no conspiracy, the attorney said. The grand jury apparently agreed.

It did vote to indict the defendant on possession of child pornography charges. Those charges stem from a search of his home by FBI agents. The agents say they found child pornography on the man's computer.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "Largo puppeteer won't face most serious charge in bizarre criminal case," Peter Jamison, Oct. 6, 2012

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