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Hampton man guilty of asking girl to send explicit photographs

BRENTWOOD - A Hampton man was found guilty of soliciting a 14-year-old girl online for partially nude photographs after he waived his right to a jury trial.

Matthew Preston, 31, was convicted of a single count of certain uses of a computer prohibited, following a bench trial before Judge Kenneth McHugh. McHugh rejected a request on Friday to reconsider the conviction after weighing the evidence on Oct. 24.

Defense lawyer Andrew Cotrupi indicated in court papers he will appeal his client's conviction to the state Supreme Court.

McHugh said in a five-page order that he disagreed with Preston's contention that his actions, which included exchanging e-mails with a police officer posing as the girl, did not meet the legal definition of solicitation.

"He claims that all he did was request sexy pictures of the underage victim, pictures which he never received," McHugh wrote.

Prosecutors used roughly 30 days worth of emails exchanged between Preston and the officer who was posing as the girl. McHugh concluded that a review of the e-mails were enough to prove that Preston was seeking a sexually explicit photograph from the girl.

A school resource officer in Stratham initially reported that the girl was being contacted by Preston, which set off an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Preston began communicating with the girl around Dec. 4, 2011. Hampton Detective Chris Gilroy assumed the identity of the girl after the matter was reported to police, according to prosecutors. Cotrupi argued that McHugh should not have been able to find Preston guilty after excluding some evidence in the case.

"The court's approach of reviewing the contents of the defendant's e-mails collectively convicts him of a crime that does not exist," Cotrupi said in court papers.

Preston was sentenced to nine months in county jail, and ordered to undergo a sex offender evaluation. He was allowed to remain free while he appeals his conviction.

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