Both men facing charges of attempted child molestation

Two arrested in sting plead not guilty to sex trafficking charges

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Two men who were arrested in a multi-agency online child exploitation sting last fall entered pleas of not guilty during arraignment in Bartow Superior Court Tuesday morning.

Both Randall Martin Ball and Bailey Gordon Brown were among 20 men apprehended during “Operation Paladin,” a major sting operation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and several other agencies, including the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office, last November.

About half those arrested in the sting are from Bartow County. “We hit six people the first day, nine people the second day, four the next day,” Homeland Security Investigations representative Shawn Owens said shortly after the operation concluded. “It was overwhelming.”

During the operation, undercover agents posed as minors on the internet. According to the GBI, the intent of the sting was to “arrest persons who communicate with children online and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex,” with an emphasis on “those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor.”

Two Cartersville men arrested during Operation Paladin — Daniel Mark Ewart, Jr., 38, and Michael Sean Wills, 34 — pleaded guilty to violations of Georgia’s Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act last month. Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge David K. Smith sentence each to 15 years — with two years to serve in confinement, and an additional $1,000 fine — for their offenses.

According to Bartow County Sheriff’s Office documents, Ball was arrested on Nov. 2 and released Nov. 5 on a $10,000 bond, while Brown was arrested on Nov. 3 and released Nov. 4 on a $10,000 bond.

Ball — 25, of Acworth — is facing one count of using a computer service to solicit a person believed to be a child to commit an illegal act, one count of trafficking of a person for sexual servitude, one count of attempted child molestation and one count of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Brown — 29, of Jasper — is facing one count of using a computer service to solicit a person believed to be a child to commit an illegal act, one count of trafficking of a person for sexual servitude and one count of attempted child molestation.

Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges Tuesday.

A calendar call establishing times and dates for jury trials is scheduled June 18, with a full week of jury trials scheduled to begin in Bartow Superior Court on June 24.