(Mark Schiefelbein ~ Associated Press)
Police Detective Jim Murray played a tape of the Wednesday phone call from Allen Kauffman, 63, to The Associated Press.
On the tape, Kauffman says he is begging for mercy and asks the detective to make the case go away.
At one point, Kauffman asks if the detective could "just take" the hard drive seized from Kauffman's home computer and not do anything with the evidence.
Kauffman, reached at home, confirmed that he had made the phone call but denied he was asking the detective to destroy evidence.
Kauffman was arrested Friday on four counts of felony enticement of a child in a sting orchestrated by Murray, who was posing online as a teenager from another southwest Missouri town. Kauffman is free on $50,000 bond.
Prosecutors alleged in court filings that Kauffman believed he was communicating with a 13-year-old girl from the Joplin area in a Yahoo chat room last November and December. In online messages, Kauffman allegedly asked the girl for sex and for nude pictures and encouraged her to have sex with a girlfriend in front of a webcam so Kauffman could watch.
Missouri law allows recording of a phone conversation between two parties within the state as long as at least one of the callers knows about and consents to the recording, Kansas City media lawyer Jean Maneke said. Murray said he did not tell Kauffman he was taping the call but was not required to under that law.
Murray said Kauffman called him at home around 8 a.m. Wednesday. Murray said he had reported the call to Newton County prosecutors.
Assistant prosecutor Bill Dobbs declined to comment on what effect this might have on Kauffman's case or whether any additional charges will be filed.
"Please have mercy on me," Kauffman said on Murray's tape of the call. "I'm begging that I can put my life back together and this don't have to go any farther."
Murray responded that there was nothing he could do because the case is now in the hands of prosecutors.
Kauffman then asked, "There's no way you can just take the hard drive and not go any farther with it?"
Kauffman said he was not asking Murray to destroy evidence.
"I didn't ask him to do anything illegal. I just asked him for mercy," Kauffman said.
Kauffman declined to discuss the specifics of his case, including how he plans to plea. His attorney did not immediately return a phone message left with his office.
Kauffman's next court date is a pretrial conference Feb. 20, court records show.
Kauffman said he has resigned as mayor of Collins and pastor of Temple Lot Church there.
In his call to Murray, Kauffman said his wife had told him, "Honey, my love is stronger than this," apparently referring to the criminal charges.
"I guarantee, I guarantee you, that I will never have that [chat] program on my computer again as long as I live," Kauffman told the detective.
Collins is a town of about 200 people in St. Clair County, about 100 miles from Diamond. Both towns are in southwest Missouri.
Murray, 69, is a retired Diamond police chief who has been chasing child sex predators in online chat rooms since 2002.
Kauffman's arrest is the 20th resulting from Murray's work, Diamond police said.