Mistrial after jury deadlock in Alan T. Panda case
The trial of Alan Berlin, known in the furry fandom as Alan T. Panda, has begun. Berlin, a resident of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, was arrested on May 28, 2009, on accusations that he had propositioned a fifteen-year-old boy over the internet. His arrest came after the boy's parents found sexually explicit messages on his computer and they contacted the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit.
Amongst furries, Berlin presented himself as a "daddyfur and caretaker" who was "looking for a babyfur to be (his) mate and companion in a long-term committed relationship." When Berlin's home was searched, wolf and cat-like costumes were found, and it was alleged that Berlin discussed dressing up in animal costumes and engaging in sex.
Update (14 Apr): The jury failed to reach a verdict. A new trial is set for May.
Berlin was released from jail on June 2, 2009, after posting bail, and on July 27 he waived his preliminary hearing in Dauphin County district court. His trial was initially scheduled for September 13, 2010, though was delayed until October. On October 27, just prior to the start of his trial, it was reported that Berlin had pleaded guilty to three felony counts in return for the attorney general’s office agreeing to drop several other charges against him.
On February 17, 2011, Berlin withdrew the pleas prior to sentencing, and a new trial date was set, with the Deputy Attorney General intending to reinstate the dropped charges.
On Tuesday April 12, the trial opened and prosecutors walked the jury through ten Yahoo Instant Messaging exchanges between Berlin and the teen that involved conversations about sex acts. In some of the messages, the two spoke of meeting to have sex in a backyard shed at the boy's home, and Berlin asked the teen to send him nude photos. Berlin responded by stating that the texts were "only role playing", and he had never intended to actually meet the boy in real life. He further said that he had not realized he was chatting with a teenage boy until authorities raided his home.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Sprow said Berlin was not just role-playing, but was trying to "groom" the boy for real-life sex. In his closing arguments, defense attorney William Tully countered this by saying that authorities had misinterpreted Berlin's online acts, and that his client never broke the law.
After deliberating for about five hours over two days, the jurors declared they were hopelessly deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict. Dauphin County President Judge Todd A. Hoover declared a mistrial, and set a new trial date for May. Alan Panda and his lawyer declined to comment.