This time last year, Edgar Rivera Salazar had just been arrested and faced a charge of online solicitation of a minor.
On Thursday, the 22-year-old Fort Worth man was putting that behind him.
A Tarrant County jury found him not guilty of the charge Wednesday. He had been accused of planning to meet a minor under the age of 14 at a Fort Worth residence for sex and was one of nine men arrested in an online sting operation conducted by Fort Worth police and investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety's Hurst office in March 2017.
If Rivera Salazar had been convicted, he faced a maximum of 20 years in prison.
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A majority of the other men arrested in the sting have been sentenced to prison or put on probation, according to Tarrant County criminal court records. Two cases are pending.
"We are pleased with the outcome of Mr. Rivera Salazar's case, not only because our client was found not guilty, but because getting to that verdict meant this jury recognized the burden that falls on the state to protect its citizens' freedom as aggressively as it pursues justice," said defense attorney Phillip Hall of Fort Worth. Hall was Rivera Salazar's attorney along with Daniel Hernandez of Fort Worth.
Tarrant County criminal district attorney spokeswoman Sam Jordan said Thursday that prosecutors could not comment on the case because of the two pending cases.
The case against Rivera Salazar and the others began in March 2017, when investigators placed advertisements on various social media sites seeking anyone interested in sex with minors. The minor who answered inquiries was an undercover officer trained on how to chat with child predators.
One suspect offered tacos and Coke for sex, and another suspect brought $20 to have sex with a 13-year-old girl, according to police reports.
Hall said Thursday that Rivera Salazar was on MocoSpace, a social media site, in March 2017. He began conversing with an undercover officer portrayed in a profile as a 19-year-old female.
"Text messages were exchanged and they were sexually explicit," Hall said..
In Rivera Salazar's trial this week, Hall said the undercover officer testified that in one of those texts he mentioned he was a 13-year-old girl, but that text wasn't presented as evidence to jurors.
"We thank this jury for having the courage to evaluate this case and follow the law in pursuit of justice," Hall said Thursday.
Rivera Salazar remained in custody Thursday on an immigration hold.
Four of the nine men arrested in the sting have been sentenced to prison and one was placed on probation. Abel Morales, 27, of Duncanville was sentenced to 11 years; Jayavardhan Aluri, 36, of Fort Worth got five years; and Cristhian Molina, 23, of Dallas and Carlos Alberto Yanez Cervantes, 51, of Fort Worth, were each sentenced to three years, according to criminal records.
Marcus Beavers, 21, of Fort Worth was placed on probation for eight years, records show. Information on Jose Garcia of Fort Worth was not available Thursday.
Cases are pending for Ankur Bambhrolia, 21, of Keller and Enrique Vega, 27, of Fort Worth.
The attorneys for Vega are Hernandez and Hall.
This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.