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Mo. ex-mayor faces trial in Internet child sex sting
NEOSHO, Mo. (AP) — A former small-town Missouri mayor and pastor faces trial over allegations he made sexual advances in an Internet chat room to a detective posing as a 13-year-old girl.
Allen Kauffman's lawyer said the 62-year-old expects to plead not guilty at an arraignment set for April 14.
A judge ruled Monday after a preliminary hearing that prosecutors had presented enough evidence for the case to go to trial. During the hearing, prosecutors dropped one of four counts of felony enticement of a child because of an apparent error in the date given for one set of alleged sexual comments.
No trial date has been set for the remaining three charges.
Kauffman resigned as mayor of Collins, a town of about 200 people in St. Clair County, after the charges were filed in January. Kauffman, who is married, also resigned as pastor of the Temple Lot Church in Collins.
"At this point we anticipate pleading not guilty," Kauffman's lawyer Mel Gilbert said after the hearing.
Kauffman did not speak during the hearing. Dressed in a brown tweed jacket and tie, he whispered to his lawyer at times as police detective Jim Murray read excerpts of the alleged online chat between Kauffman and the detective.
Prosecutors alleged in court filings that Kauffman believed he was communicating with a 13-year-old girl named Cindy from the Joplin area in a Yahoo chat room in November and December.
In the online messages, Kauffman allegedly asked the girl to send him nude pictures and encouraged her to have sex with a girlfriend in front of a Webcam so that Kauffman could watch.
Murray, 69, is a retired police chief from the southwest Missouri town of Diamond who has made a specialty of posing as a young girl in chat rooms in order to prosecute alleged adult predators. This case is his 20th since 2002.
Kauffman was allegedly using the online identity "duke." Murray told the court he was first contacted in December by duke while posing as Cindy in a Missouri chat room.
"I believe the general topic (of the chat room) is romance," Murray said.
Newton County assistant prosecutor Bill Dobbs said he asked that the fourth count be dropped after Kauffman's lawyer pointed out during the hearing that the chat excerpt quoted in the count was from a different date than the one listed in the charges.
Dobbs said he is confident enough in the remaining three counts that he does not expect to refile the fourth.
Child enticement is a class C felony under Missouri law with a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum 30 years.