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Ex-mayor pleads innocent to sex charges in Wisconsin

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: A former mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, arraigned Tuesday
  • NEW: District attorney: Gary Becker could face 164 years in prison if convicted
  • Becker is charged with sex crimes, including possession of child porn
  • Prosecutors say he used online chat to solicit what he thought was underage girl
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(CNN) -- A former mayor of a city in southeast Wisconsin pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges of child pornography, solicitation of a minor and related counts, a prosecutor said.

Gary Becker, former mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, is charged with soliciting someone he believed was a girl.

Gary Becker, former mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, is charged with soliciting someone he believed was a girl.

Former Racine Mayor Gary Becker, who was arraigned Tuesday, could face a sentence of up to 164 years if convicted on all counts, District Attorney Michael Nieskes told CNN.

He was still in office when he was arrested last month at a shopping mall in Brookfield, Wisconsin. He allegedly tried to meet with a person he thought was a 14-year-old girl after chatting with that person online, said Bill Kosh, a spokesman for the Wisconsin attorney general's office. An officer posed online as the underage girl, according to authorities.

Becker's attorney did not immediately return calls for comment.

Authorities first launched an investigation after Becker brought his personal computer into the mayor's office for repair. The computer technician hired by his office discovered six pornographic images of girls "possibly under the age of 18 years," according to Wisconsin criminal complaint.

The technician reported his findings to local law enforcement officers, and they turned the case over to the state's child Internet crimes task force. Members of the task force swapped out the computer's hard drive so they could investigate without alerting Becker, Nieskes said.

Their search uncovered further pornographic images of underage girls and more than 1,800 online chats containing "sexually explicit comments," some of them directed at underage girls, the complaint says.

Authorities then set up an online profile for the fictitious 14-year-old girl -- using the name "Hopeyoulikeme14" -- and engaged the mayor in a chat that lasted more than two hours, the complaint says.

During the chat, the former mayor agreed to meet the girl at a shopping mall, the document says.

Becker, who resigned from office after his arrest, faces six criminal counts: child enticement, possession of child pornography, exposing a child to harmful materials, attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and misconduct in public office, according to a January statement from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

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