Ex-Liberty professor convicted of child sex solicitation

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ) — UPDATE (June 7, 2019):

A former Liberty University professor has been convicted of trying to have sex with a minor.

The News & Advance reports Stephen Kilpatrick was found guilty Wednesday of five counts of child sex solicitation.

The jury recommended 64-year-old Kilpatrick be sentenced to 35 years in prison, which is the mandatory minimum sentence.

The charges stem from Nov. of 2017 when Kilpatrick, who was a mathematics professor at LU at the time, responded to an advertisement posted on Craigslist that read, "hey guys...I'm really bored,” stating that the person was new to the area and asked, “any suggestions?”

According to testimony heard in Bedford County Circuit Court Tuesday and Wednesday, Kilpatrick responded to the ad using a different name and sexually explicit language.

The sexually explicit messages would continue between the two people for months, without Kilpatrick knowing that the person writing to him was an undercover investigator for the sheriff’s office with the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

Throughout the course of the conversations, Investigator JM Wade told Kilpatrick he was a 13-year-old girl named Jenny. In the messages, read aloud in court Tuesday, Kilpatrick asked about Jenny's clothing, underwear, and talked about sexual acts.

The messages ended after seven months, in June of 2018, when investigators planned a “take-down operation.”

According to search warrants, Kilpatrick stopped in Forest at a “Walmart to purchase cookies for the 13-year-old female child he planned to meet." Officers intercepted the meeting and arrested and charged Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick's defense team argued that he was "entrapped." Matthew Pack, Kilpatrick’s defense attorney, stated that he did not have a criminal background or history of soliciting children and argued that officers were inviting someone to commit a crime.

For the first time, jurors heard from Kilpatrick Wednesday. He took the witness stand and told the jury that he never thought he was messaging a 13-year-old girl, but was taking part in a fantasy with an adult woman who was pretending to be 13. He said that he was creating a persona and that he was messaging a persona as part of "fantasy communication," never believing that it was an actual 13-year-old.

"The moment you question a fantasy, you terminate the fantasy," said Kilpatrick, from the witness stand.

Kilpatrick added that he often scrolled through and responded to ads on Craigslist. He said it helped him get away from the frustrations of home-life and he saw it as a form of entertainment, trying to ascertain if the person who was posting was a real person or not.

"I was trying to get her to break her persona," said Kilpatrick. "Everything can be fake in fantasy communication."

Pack also argued that Investigator Wade broke two Craigslist policies by using the site as someone who was supposed to be under the age of 18 and by posting false or misleading information.

Kilpatrick was a professor of physics at Liberty, but his family said during earlier court proceedings that he has been fired.

Liberty is an evangelical Christian university in Lynchburg led by Jerry Falwell Jr.

A judge will sentence Kilpatrick at a later date.

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ORIGINAL STORY (June 30, 2018):

Virginia authorities say an educator at an evangelical Christian university led by Jerry Falwell Jr. has been accused of trying to have sexual relations with a minor.

News outlets report 63-year-old Liberty University professor Stephen Kilpatrick was arrested Wednesday. He faces multiple charges, including using communications systems to facilitate certain offenses involving children.

A task force against child internet crimes says Kilpatrick was arrested after travelling to meet someone who he believed was an underage girl.

The school said in an email that Kilpatrick has been suspended from his position as an associate professor of mathematics "pending the outcome of this matter."

Kilpatrick was booked into the Bedford Adult Detention Center. It's unclear if he has a lawyer to comment on the charges.