Former Bryan firefighter gets two years in prison for solicitation of minor

Web Posted: 01/08/2008 11:58 AM CST
By Elizabeth Allen
San Antonio Express-News staff writer

Nicholas Pappas knew he shouldn’t be flirting with what he believed to be a 13-year-old girl, but he kept contacting Jessicaperez13 – in reality a San Antonio Police Department vice officer – until he grew bold enough to set up a time and place to meet.

The assignation turned out to be a bust and Pappas, a battalion chief for the Bryan fire department, was arrested at a San Antonio gas station for soliciting a child younger than 14 online.

He was sentenced today to two years in prison by 399th District Judge Juanita Vasquez-Gardner.

Pappas, 49, first sent an instant message to the police officer masquerading as a young teen in a Yahoo online chat room in 2005.

He told her in the casual parlace of online chats, “im a 45 yo married guy that yes does like younger girls.”

“Well I'm 13,” replied the officer.

Pappas’ messages began with compliments. After the officer sent him a photo – a girlhood picture of another officer – he wrote, “you truly are beautiful it’s a fantacy (sic).” But he continued to contact her.

The conversations became more sexually explicit until Pappas made arrangements to come to San Antonio to meet her on Nov. 8, 2005. He wanted to pick up the imagined teen at her school, but the officer set up the meeting at a gas station where police were waiting for him.

Charged with six counts of online solicitation of a minor, Pappas pleaded no contest to one count in November before Judge Vasquez-Gardner.

Today's sentencing came after a hearing in which family members and friends testified to Pappas’ decades-long service to the Bryan community and his family’s own struggle to come to terms with his crime.

Pappas had convinced a small group of friends from his native Long Island to come to Texas when they were about 21, and they had formed a close group of Bryan firefighters in the years since. Pappas married and was raising three children. His wife worked as a college administrator.

Then he was arrested, and his world came crashing down.

He resigned from the fire department and entered a self-imposed exile, moving to McKinney. He lived and worked restoring MGs in a friend’s garage while sending money home. He saw a psychologist and tried to rebuild his family relationships, including with his youngest child, a daughter in junior high at the time of the crime.

He’s not the typical defendant with little to lose who often tends to spiral downward after an arrest, said defense lawyer Patrick Hancock.

“The victims were his own family,” Hancock said, asking the judge for probation. “He left the community and put his family first.”

“This man needs to get back to his family,” he said. “They need him.”

After the sentencing, prosecutor Miguel Najera disputed Hancock’s characterization of Pappas as unusual among those who solicit minors over the Internet.

“Most of my defendants tend to be well-to-do, middle class, with no criminal history,” Najera said.

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