Thomas Wise

Thomas Wise

A man has been convicted of sending lewd texts to and trying to meet a 15-year-old girl in Lancaster last year.

The "girl" was actually a self-described vigilante who started the online communication and arranged to meet Thomas H. Wise on July 19, 2018, in Lancaster's Binns Park.

The vigilante — Justin Perry — recorded the meeting on a video shared on his Facebook page, "Mr. 17540."

Police arrested Wise a few weeks later and charged him with five felonies including soliciting statutory sexual assault.

At the non-jury trial in front of Judge Merill Spahn on Monday, 37-year-old Wise was sentenced to time served, about nine months on parole and five years of probation, according to the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office. Wise also must register under Megan's Law for the rest of his life.

Assistant District Attorney Fritz Haverstick presented evidence that Wise sent 336 text messages to the "girl," including a lewd photo and details of sexual acts he wanted to engage in with "her." In the messages, he said he "needed to be careful of her age," according to the district attorney's office.

Wise's public defender, Daniel Kaye, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The video was used as evidence, according to a news release from the district attorney's office. The release credited the "citizen's work" as helping with the conviction.

Haverstick, who prosecuted the case, said at trial that police and prosecutors "do not condone the citizen's actions, but the case was about Wise's criminal conduct," according to the district attorney's office. 

Perry continues to shares videos on his Facebook page of meeting men after posing online as a young girl. The page's name is a reference to the ZIP code in Leola, his hometown. 

Perry said in a message Wednesday that he did not attend the trial but was pleased with Wise's sentence.

"I think justice was served," Perry said.

Perry, too, had some run-ins with police after the investigation into Wise began. Police charged Perry with child pornography and criminal use of a cellphone Aug. 2 but dropped the charges Aug. 10, 2018. Officials also executed a search warrant at his home to review his cell phone and laptop for communication he had with Wise. At the the time, the district attorney's office said Perry was under investigation. On Wednesday the district attorney's office said it does not anticipate charges against Perry.