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NC man pleads guilty to exposing himself online

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By John Barnhart

    A 48-year-old North Carolina man pleaded guilty Tuesday in Bedford County Circuit Court to exposing himself, via a web camera, to what he thought was a minor under the age of 15.
    According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Krantz, Grady Mabe, of Walkertown, N.C., engaged in five different Internet chats in April and May, 2012, with a person who turned out to be an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) investigator. The chats were sexually explicit and Mabe, at one point, exposed himself and masturbated. This action was the charge he pleaded guilty to Tuesday.
    “He had every reason to believe that this was a child and he was still willing to do that,” Krantz said.
    Mabe was arrested on Nov. 4, 2012, in North Carolina and extradited to Virginia. He has been in jail since then. He remains in custody pending sentencing, which will be set after a presentencing report is prepared. Krantz asked that a sex offender evaluation be made part of the report. Krantz said that no plea deal had been made with Mabe, who faces a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
    Krantz credits the Virginia General Assembly for making changes in the sex offender laws that make it possible to get control of people who commit actions, such as the charges Mabe faced. He said this was Mabe’s first offense and, in the past, a first offense would have drawn a sentence of between 60 and 90 days in jail. He’s seen this sort of crime progress from being a misdemeanor to a felony.
    According to Krantz, the General Assembly has armed prosecutors with a set of tools, but it’s up to prosecutors to use good judgement in how to use them. This means striking a balance between protecting society and fairness. He said prosecutors need to ask two questions: “What can we do?” and “What should we do?”
    “We have to be fair,” he said.
    Krantz said that the sex offender evaluation his office had performed on Mabe indicated that his risk of a future offense is low. This means that he should be easy to manage once he gets out of prison. The report indicated that he isn’t a pedophile and wasn’t deliberately seeking children and would have done what he did regardless of whether the female he contacted was under 15 or over 50. The threat he poses is that he had no boundaries that stopped him from sexually explicit behavior with a child, according to the report.
    If Mabe had demonstrated predatory behavior, Krantz said he would have sought a long prison sentence in order to isolate Mabe from society, and he had the ammunition to do so. There were four other charges that came from Mabe’s online chats with the investigator and Krantz moved  to nolle prosequi these charges. This legal term means that Krantz is not going to prosecute these charges, now, but reserves the right to do so in the future.
    Krantz said this will help control Mabe’s behavior once he is released from prison because he will have these hanging over his head. If he violates his probation, Krantz could prosecute him on those remaining charges. He said conviction on the first of them would get Mabe an additional five years in prison and the others would get him 10 years after that.
    According to Krantz, Mabe was living with his elderly parents; when police came to arrest him, he fainted.