Quinnipiac professor caught in sex sting: the legal steps
By Ana Grosso and Aron Fried
In the wake of Quinnipiac University finance professor and Thomas Coe’s exposure as a sexual predator, the sting operation, planned and filmed by “POPSquad”, raises one question: If police were at the scene, why wasn’t Coe arrested?
Members of “POPSquad” confronted Thomas Coe and published the sting operation in a video on Nov. 11. In the video, the group included sexually explicit messages that Coe had allegedly sent to what he believed to be a 14-year-old-boy who he was attempting to meet up with.
Section 53a-49 of the Connecticut Penal Code outlines criminal attempt as an offense.
According to the statute, a person is guilty of criminal attempt if he or she, “intentionally engages in conduct which would constitute the crime if attendant circumstances were as he believes them to be.”
There was no actual 14-year-old boy involved, but the video and subsequent released private messages clearly show that Coe believed there to be, and that he knew exactly what he was doing.
After exchanging messages, Coe arrived at the sting house just before midnight on Sunday, Nov. 11.
Police arrived to the sting house about an hour later and spoke with both Coe and members of the “POPSquad” team, but despite what looks like a very clear violation of the criminal attempt statute, they did not arrest Coe.
Deputy Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Lawler would not comment on the specifics of an investigation or even confirm the existence of one, but he said, “There are requirements for cases where officers believe that on site they have probable cause to make an immediate arrest and other cases where they go out and seek a warrant.”
Although Bristol police arrived an hour after “POPSquad” exposed Coe, they did not make an arrest because they were not involved in the investigation. In the video, Coe made indirect suicidal threats and the “POPSquad” team feared for his life and called police for precautionary measures and legal reasons.
According to the video, Coe will absolutely be arrested, especially with such detailed and documented evidence, however police must investigate the crime for themselves before making an arrest. “POPSquad” members said in the video that an arrest will take “forever” because the criminal justice system is in their opinion, “broken.”
Lawler touched on that as well.
“Prosecuting sex crimes is not easy,” he said. “That is something that requires substantial investigation in order to successfully prosecute them. I don’t see this as being any different. They are difficult to prosecute.”
Coe lives in Meriden, in close proximity to Francis T. Maloney High School. HQ Press reached out to the Meriden Public School District and they have not responded.
The Connecticut Sex Offender Registry laws outlines specific rules involving schools. However, registration as a sex offender requires a conviction, so until that happens, if it happens, Coe can legally continue living at his current residence.
Sgt. John Mennone, police spokesman in Meriden, said the video was not recorded there, and city police are not investigating the incident.
In a similar sting operation in January of 2018, Guilford police arrested five men and charged them with second-degree criminal attempt to commit sexual assault and criminal attempt to commit risk of injury. Police arrested 24-year-old Gregorio Rafael Diaz, of Putnam, 30-year-old Robert Prece, of New Haven, 29-year-old Sergio Bordonaro, of Boston, Ma. 41-year-old Marvin Gay Dunkley, of New Haven, 44-year-old Kevin Millen, of Ellington, according to News 8.
What sets this sting apart from Coe’s is the fact that Guilford police were involved with the initial investigation and setup. The Veterans 4 Child Rescue Foundation launched a collaborative initiative called “Not in my Town,” which combines the foundation’s efforts with Guilford police and the New Haven State’s Attorney.
“The operation was also filmed as part of a documentary by the Veterans 4 Child Rescue Foundation and was designed not only to arrest sexual predators that are lurking literally a text message or mouse click away, but to also raise awareness to the realities of child sexual exploitation and the importance of internet safety in "keeping our children safe while on-line," police said.