Palm Beach County prosecutor arrested on Web sex charges

Published: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 1:16 a.m.

WEST PALM BEACH - A highly respected prosecutor was taken out of a courtroom during a trial Tuesday and arrested on charges that he stripped and masturbated in front of a Web cam for someone he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, police said.

Assistant State Attorney Ira Karmelin was charged with two felonies: soliciting a minor for sex via the Internet and transmitting harmful materials to a minor via the Internet, said Capt. Bernie Presha, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Orlando.

He was released on $250,000 bond after spending several hours in custody. Scott Richardson, Karmelin's attorney, said he and his client declined to comment.

Karmelin, 38, a top prosecutor in Palm Beach County, has been in the state attorney's office for more than 10 years. He publicly has said he had hopes to become a judge.

The charges came after an Orlando television station began working on a story about pedophiles using Web cams. The station, WFTV, had a young-looking undercover producer pose as a 13-year-old girl. Authorities said Karmelin approached the producer in a chat room using the screen name Mickeynut24.

The two then went on to use their Web cams, tiny cameras hooked up to the computer that can transfer images of the user. The station later feared that Karmelin was also chatting with an actual young user and contacted the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Presha said there were four online encounters, two of them observed by detectives.

During the masturbation encounter, he encouraged the producer to join him, WFTV reported. "Take off your clothes," "You're hot" and "How about taking your top off please?" were some of the messages he wrote, the television station reported.

"He tried to get her to perform the act with him," Presha said.

Sheriff's investigators subpoenaed AOL to get the identity behind the username. Using the name, they matched a driver's license photo with the online image that WFTV had taped, Presha said.

A search warrant was issued for Karmelin's home and investigators seized his computer.

Karmelin has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of charges, said State Attorney spokesman Mike Edmondson.

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