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November 22, 2013

Commerce solicitation conviction dismissed

GREENVILLE — A Commerce man’s conviction and prison sentence, which he received last month after pleading guilty to soliciting a child online, have been dismissed.

The charge for which Lawrence Sherlock Lumpkin was convicted was found to be unconstitutional within days after the guilty plea.

Now Lumpkin is facing a new trial on a separate charge, which alleged he escaped from officers from the Commerce Police Department while in custody in connection with the solicitation count.

Lumpkin is scheduled to be arraigned on the escape charge Monday, his 28th birthday. He remained in custody Thursday in the Hunt County Jail.

Lumpkin was indicted by the Hunt County grand jury January 25 on one count of online solicitation of a minor and one count of escape.

During an October 23 hearing in the 196th District Court, Lumpkin pleaded guilty to the solicitation indictment. The escape charge was dismissed, but Lumpkin accepted responsibility for the incident and the punishment he would have received was considered as part of his sentence.

Under a plea bargain arrangement, Lumpkin was sentenced to four years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division, with 518 days credit for time served, as Lumpkin had been in custody for 19 months.

The indictments alleged Lumpkin used the Internet or electronic mail to solicit a female under 17 years of age on or about March 26, 2012 and to have briefly escaped from two officers with the Commerce Police Department while at the time in custody at the Commerce City Jail on May 23, 2012, the day of his arrest.

But defense attorney Cariann Abramson filed a motion with the court, seeking a new trial in the case, noting the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled October 30 that the statute under which Lumpkin was convicted for solicitation was unconstitutional, as the wording was considered too broad and vague, and prohibited what has been considered constitutionally protected free speech.

“Thus, the charge for which this Court convicted Mr. Lumpkin is now unconstitutional and the verdict is contrary to the law,” Abramson wrote.

The court agreed and granted the motion for a new trial. The Hunt County District Attorney’s Office then drafted an information charge on the escape count, which is the subject of the arraignment hearing Monday.

Both charges are third degree felonies, each punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from two to 10 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.

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