Bluffton man gets probation in plot to meet underage girl he met online

A 29-year-old Bluffton man arrested in an Internet sex sting in Lexington County in 2009 pleaded guilty in court last week.

Edward Joseph Kestler pleaded guilty July 27 to one count of criminal solicitation of a minor, said Mark Plowden, spokesman for S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster. The Attorney General's Office prosecuted the case as part of McMaster's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Kestler was sentenced to 18 months probation on a three-year suspended sentence by 11th Circuit Court Judge Edward Cottingham. Kestler is required to register as a sex offender with the S.C. Law Enforcement Division for the rest of his life. Kestler also agreed to forfeit his computer.

Plowden said prosecutors believe Kestler deserved more than probation.

"We believe jail time is appropriate in Internet predator cases," Plowden said.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Kestler were unsuccessful.

Kestler was arrested Oct. 26 after investigators said he drove more than three hours from his Bluffton home to Lexington County in the hopes of having sex with an underage girl he met on the Internet.

The "girl" Kestler was hoping to meet was actually an undercover Lexington County Sheriff's deputy who was undergoing Internet predator training with McMaster's office.

Police were waiting for Kestler when he arrived at the meeting place.

Police searched Kestler's vehicle and recovered a laptop computer and a removable drive as evidence, according to authorities.

The age of the girl Kestler believed he was meeting was redacted from arrest warrants, though he was charged with second-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor. The state defines the offense as sexual battery against someone between 11 and 14 years old.

Plowden said that charge was dropped as part of a plea bargain. Kestler was representedby 11th Circuit Chief Public Defender Robert Madsen.

Kestler also was arrested in April 2007 for assault and battery, according to Beaufort County's online jail log.