Former Mobile County Commissioner Freeman Jockisch was in federal court today facing a single charge of attempting to lure a child for unlawful sex.
Jockisch was arrested in November of 2013 after traveling to meet a girl he believed to be 15 years old.
The girl was actually portrayed on the phone by FBI agent Laura Field, who was working with members of the Saraland Police Department.
The prosecution’s only witness was Det. James Morton, who testified that as a part of the
Saraland Police Department’s sex crimes unit, he posted a vague Craigslist ad on July 2, 2013 on the website’s “Causal Encounters” section entitled “Bored to Tears.”
The body of the ad read, “I’m bored and everybody is out of the house till Saturday. So you can like hit me or whatever. I may have a friend come over and hang but it ain’t the same.”
Just 14 minutes after the ad was posted, the detective received a reply from Jockisch requesting a photograph and suggesting, “let’s do it.”
Over the next five hours, the detective and Jockisch emailed each other, with the 69-year-old Jockisch sending a photo of himself cradling one of his grandchildren and the detective repeatedly representing himself as a 15-year-old girl.
At one point, the detective sent a photo to Jockisch of a young-looking blond female with bright red lipstick.
Later, Jockisch wrote that he wanted to “make love to” the girl, but admitted being “scared” of the possibility of going to jail.
The detective eventually broke off communication.
But in November, Morton posted another ad on Craigslist.
“My Halloween was so lame,” he wrote. “Now my weekend and this week just got boring before it even like starts. There aint nothing to do or anyone who want to do anything. Bored.”
With no way to know the ad was posted by the same individual, Jockisch replied again.
A flurry of emails ended with no contact between the two, but did establish that Jockisch was communicating with the same “girl” from July.
Again, the detective cut off communication, but days later, he received an unprovoked email from Jockisch hoping to continue the conversation.
Morton eventually coordinated with a female FBI agent who pretended to be the girl over the phone. Together, they directed Jockisch to a Saraland apartment where he was detained and questioned.
Among the evidence presented to the jury was a videotape of Jockisch’s original interrogation, where after receiving his Miranda Rights he told Morton, “I told her I would come over and I don’t know what she had in mind. I said I’d love to make love to you.”
Jockisch also admitted to the detective he realized the poster was a teenager, but asked for photo of her whole body because “I wanted to make sure she was a woman.”
Defense attorney Jeff Deen said initially, Jockisch thought he was communicating with an adult. The personal ads on Craigslist are accompanied by a warning indicating they are only for use by those over the age of 18 and the detective’s ad was posted under a subsection called W4M, or “woman for man.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy asked detective Morton if had conducted investigations involving other age-restricted websites, which he said he had.
Regarding the picture the detective sent, Deen noted that the female’s lips were pursed.
“Don’t you think you’re enticing him a little bit?” he asked Morton. “Setting the hook? Do you think that picture is sexually alluring?”
Morton replied that the female in the photo was conservatively dressed.
Deen also noted that in the second set of email exchanges, when the girl identifies herself as 15-years-old, Jockisch no longer mentions anything about sex.
Several of Jockisch’s professional and social acquaintances were called by the defense to testify and were specifically asked about the former commissioner’s reputation.
All six of the witnesses described Jockisch to be of good character.
Betty Wraggett, who served with Jockisch as a member of the Exchange Club, said caring was one of Jockisch’s major interests throughout the 30 years she’s known him.
“He felt it was a calling,” she said.
Jockisch’s son, 41-year-old Jerry Jockisch, told Deen he visited his father’s home in Theodore often, and regularly had access to the computer there.
Jerry claimed he showed his father how to use Craigslist in 2013.
He testified that his father didn’t know how to use the website before that time, and hasn’t seen anything that would suggest inappropriate communication with a minor since.
Jockisch’s wife Debra corroborated that story, but told Murphy she hadn’t gone over any of the evidence.
She said she knew about her husband using Craigslist to talk to troubled girls, and gave an example of a girl her husband had met online who needed money to fix her car.
“He gave her $40,” she said. “He said, ‘She was going to sell her body, but I put a stop to that.”
A phone conversation from the Saraland police station between Jockisch and his wife was also entered as evidence.
In the tape, Debra tells her husband she knew he had lied to her.
When asked to clarify her meaning, she said, “He lied to me because he promised me he would always have someone with him. I told him this is dangerous because no one would ever believe what his intentions were.”
Mrs. Jockisch maintained that her husband was using Craigslist to “minister” to girls throughout the prosecution’s cross-examination.
“His (Craigslist) name was fjockisch,” she said. “If you’re going to do something wrong, why use your name?”
In the phone conversation entered as evidence, Jockisch told his wife his intentions were only to talk to the girl he went to meet the day he was arrested.
Debra then asked why they couldn’t “talk over the f*cking phone.”
During her testimony, Debra claimed she had been misquoted in the conversation’s transcript and had actually said, “You can’t talk over the funky phone.”
Murphy then asked Mrs. Jockisch how she knew she was misquoted if she hadn’t reviewed the evidence in the case.
Deen responded saying he had played the conversation for Mrs. Jockisch, but she had seen none of the other materials being used as evidence in the case.
When asked, Debra said her husband only used terms like “make love” to get girls to agree to talk with him.
In her closing argument, Murphy said common sense would tell you Jockisch was referring to sexual activity when he responded to a young girl’s ad on Craigslist with “send me a picture” and “let’s do it.”
Deen said his client meant he wanted to talk to the girl.
“When people show up on ‘To Catch a Predator’ they have flowers, beer and condoms. My client showed up with nothing but an Alabama jersey,” Deen said. “If you look at the emails versus the ads, he doesn’t say ‘here’s my yacht and here’s all these clothes I can buy you,’ he sent a picture of his grandkid.”
Deen said Jockish couldn’t have enticed a child because the Saraland Police Department put the original ad up and did so in a section of an adults-only website known for casual sexual encounters.
“How do you prove intent?” Deen asked the Jury.
Murphy said Jockisch induced the situation when he said, ‘let’s make love.’
“Why would someone troll Craigslist to minister to women and keep it a secret from an organization they already work with that helps women?” Murphy asked the jury. “And why does he keep asking her to send him a picture? Is he not going to minister to her if she’s ugly?”
Murphy also asked the jury why Jockisch would have mentioned being put “under the jail” on the phone with agent Field, who was portraying the 15 year old, if his intentions were only to talk.
The jury spent around an hour deliberating a verdict, but eventually agreed to recess until the morning.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. tomorrow and a verdict is expected before the end of the day.