Man guilty of misusing PC in chat

NASHUA – A Londonderry man was convicted of using AOL Instant Messenger to arrange what he thought would be a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old.

A jury on Wednesday found Andrew Farrington guilty of the Class B felony crime of prohibited computer use. He could receive between 3-1/2 to seven years in prison.

Farrington used the online service in 2007 to strike up a friendship with the girl and later to arrange a meeting. He was 21, and she was 13, posing as a 14-year-old.

Soured by Farrington turning innocuous conversations into sexual ones, the girl eventually had an older male friend from Nashua pose as her, according to her testimony and evidence. The friend lured Farrington to Nashua for a sexual encounter that never happened. Rather, the friend captured Farrington’s license plate and gave it to police, which led to the arrest.

“This was very different than many cases we have tried because we always have an undercover officer,” on the other side of the computer, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Roger Chadwick said Thursday.

But in some instances, no police are involved, Chadwick said. Adults are communicating directly with children online, he said.

In this case, the girl didn’t tell her parents but relied on a teenage friend, Chadwick said.

“She did the right thing, the smart thing,” he said. “We don’t encourage kids to take this into their own hands, but they were smart not to meet in person.”

Farrington struck up a friendship with the girl on the social networking program Facebook, and then continued chatting with her on AOL IM. He thought she was 14, when she was in fact 13.

But the girl became uncomfortable when Farrington mentioned a sexual dream, she testified Tuesday. She then had the 17-year-old male friend pretend to be her in further IM chats and cell phone texts, according to court testimony.

Farrington’s attorney, Shawn Sweeney, told jurors that his client wasn’t surfing the Internet looking for an unsuspecting victim.

Rather, the girl posted a photo of herself on the Internet through a Facebook application called “Are You Interested?” Sweeney said. Farrington checked “yes” to the question, and the two then struck up a cyberspace friendship, including chats on IM that the girl allowed, he said.

Sweeney asked the girl in cross-examination if she had used another Internet application called “Rate Me.” She said she didn’t know. He also had her acknowledge that Farrington never mentioned having sex with her but only mentioned the dream.

But Farrington admitted to Nashua police Detective Kerry Baxter that he drove in a snowstorm to have sex with the girl and knew she was underage, Chadwick said.

Sweeney could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 3.