Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2005
Sports reporter snared in Internet sex sting
Steve Sembrat's home computer was seized for examination.
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (AP) A newspaper reporter was charged Sunday with trying to arrange a sexual encounter via the Internet with an undercover police officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.
Steve Sembrat, a veteran sports reporter for the Times Leader, was arrested Sunday afternoon in suburban Philadelphia after he drove there to meet who he thought was the girl, but who turned out to be a detective with Delaware County's Internet sex crimes unit, authorities said.
Police searched Sembrat's car after his arrest and found a digital camera, condoms, ropes, duct tape and bondage photos. Sembrat admitted he was going to use the items on the teenager he thought he was meeting, police said.
Sembrat, 48, has worked at the Times Leader since 1987, covering girls field hockey, girls softball, boys and girls swimming and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins minor league hockey team. He left the sports department for a health beat in the spring.
"I am shocked and saddened that a long career of a prolific writer appears to be coming to an end," Pat McHugh, president and publisher of the Times Leader, said in a statement. "We will cooperate fully with authorities as they investigate. The Times Leader will continue to report on the story as it unfolds."
McHugh said the paper plans to fire Sembrat.
Sembrat called the Times Leader on Monday from Delaware County's prison, where he was being held on $250,000 bail. He told the newspaper that he plans to admit the allegations.
"I've disappointed a lot of people and broken the trust of a lot of people," Sembrat said. "I understand their feelings of anger to me at this point. I don't expect them to understand. I don't expect them to forgive me. I just hope that they'll pray for me."
Sembrat said hadn't previously tried to solicit sex from a minor.
Sembrat helped formed a girls field hockey club in April. He also was scheduled to join Wyoming Seminary as a volunteer assistant field hockey coach, but head coach Karen Klassner said Sembrat's arrest will preclude him from joining the team.
Sembrat began communicating with the undercover officer March 10 via instant messaging, and had numerous sexually graphic conversations with the officer over the Internet, according to an arrest affidavit.
In one Internet chat, Sembrat claimed to have tied up a 12-year-old girl four years ago, authorities said. Police said they are investigating whether the claim is true. State police seized Sembrat's computer from his home in Edwardsville and are examining it for evidence of any other crimes, authorities said.
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