Andrew Lubrano, a 39 year old Centereach man who is a registered Level 3 sex offender, was arrested for allegedly engaging in sexually explicit online chats with a person he thought was a teenage boy but was instead a detective. Lubrano, who lives with his five children at 120 Smithtown Polk Boulevard, was charged with attempted endangering the welfare of a child, a Class B misdemeanor, and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle with a suspended registration, both misdemeanors. Police said they would have charged him with more serious crimes but for a recent appellate court decision that held that text is not sufficient to depict sexual conduct. Lubrano was convicted in September 1995 of first degree sex abuse for assaults on a 9 year old boy and an 11 year old boy in Suffolk, physically overpowering his victims.

Under a July ruling out of the Second Judicial Department of the Appellate Division, Lubrano will face only the misdemeanor charges rather than the felony count of disseminating indecent material to a minor.  The ruling said online chat is only illegal if the e-mails include photographs.  His is one of the first cases to arise under the new ruling.  And yesterday, police, neighbors and advocates expressed their outrage.  Speaking at a news conference, Suffolk Chief of Detectives Kenneth Rau said the ruling makes preying on children over the Internet less of a crime than walking into a store and stealing a candy bar.   The ruling is being appealed.

Lubrano pleaded not guilty and was held on bail of $25,000 cash or $50,000.

(Centereach, New York)