California man convicted of traveling to Pittsburgh to have sex with teen

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A jury needed just three hours Wednesday to convict Edward Leonard Finley Hilts, 68, of Fallbrook, Calif., on all four federal charges related to his attempt to engage in illegal sexual conduct with a Pittsburgh girl he believed to be 14 years old.

The teen turned out to be a detective from the Allegheny County District Attorney‘‍s office. Mr. Hilts is expected to be sentenced in October.

During closing arguments in Mr. Hilts’ trial in U.S. District Court, his attorney, W. Penn Hackney, sought to create reasonable doubt, insisting that Mr. Hilts only traveled to Pittsburgh to spend time with the girl and evaluate the possibility of committing to a long-term relationship. He also emphasized that Mr. Hilts had spent the past 15 years in a “loveless marriage.”

As for the graphic sexual language contained in transcripts from Mr. Hilts’ online correspondence with the girl, Mr. Hackney asserted that while such language is inappropriate to some, it is “what is done these days” among teenagers. He also argued that the transcript suggested the girl was “a mature, intelligent, adventurous young woman,” who willingly participated in the conversations with Mr. Hilts, who was 63 at the time.

Mr. Hackney asked the jury not to judge Mr. Hilts based on separate transcripts in which he told an adult couple online that he had sex with a 13-year-old girl over a three-month period while in Thailand and that he was planning to travel to Vancouver to meet with another girl, age 14.

The federal prosecutor, Craig Haller, countered that those transcripts revealed Mr. Hilts’ intent in the Pittsburgh case.

Mr. Hilts had two unopened boxes of condoms and a bottle of Viagra with him when he was arrested in Pittsburgh, which was clear evidence of intent, said Mr. Haller.

Mr. Hilts was found guilty on counts of attempting to persuade, induce or entice a minor to engage in illegal sexual conduct, traveling interstate for the purpose of engaging in such conduct, and possessing and transporting child pornography.

Albert Anderson: or 412-263-1454. First Published June 18, 2014 12:00 AM

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