Former Red Sox Player Among 27 Men Arrested in Undercover Child Predator Sting

Former Red Sox Player Among 27 Men Arrested in Undercover Child Predator Sting
Austin Maddox of the Boston Red Sox baseball team in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 19, 2017. (David Goldman/AP Photo)

Video captured the moment authorities tackled and arrested former Boston Red Sox pitcher Austin Maddox during an undercover child predator sting in Florida.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) released the footage on Tuesday, which shows multiple law enforcement officers take down the six-foot-four former athlete after he arrived at a home in an alleged attempt to meet an underage girl.

The short clip showed him pull up to a residence in a red pickup truck on April 28. When he walked toward the front door of the home, police rushed out and tackled the former pitcher.

“Austin Maddox, a former Red Sox MLB player, traveled with the intent of engaging in sexual activity with a 14-year-old child,” Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters said during a press conference.

The ex-MLB right-hander used a chat website to communicate with an undercover agent posing as a minor. He continued to chat through text messages even after being told the girl was 14, according to authorities. He allegedly said, “That’s young, baby. I get in trouble for that. You can’t even drive. You gonna stay with me all night?”

His communication became increasingly explicit following that exchange, including a request for nude photos. He also admitted his own age, which was 32 at the time.

Mr. Maddox has been charged with four felony counts of traveling to meet after using a computer to solicit a child, solicitation of a child via computer to engage in sexual conduct, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and promoting performance, which includes sexual performance by a child.

He is being held in jail on a $300,000 bond, according to inmate records. His next court date is set for May 28.

“Mr. Maddox is going to aggressively fight these allegations,” James Hill, his defense attorney, told NTD News in a statement.

“Should formal charges be filed, he intends to enter a plea of not guilty and challenge this case in the courtroom,” he said.

Mr. Maddox played college baseball for the University of Florida and played in the minor leagues for six years. He had a 13-game stint with the Boston Red Sox in 2017, but he returned to the minors the following year due to injuries. He was released from the team in 2019 and eventually retired from baseball before the 2020 season.

He was one of 27 people arrested in the five-day sting dubbed Operation Valiant Knights. The operation involved the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, along with local, state, and federal partners with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. 24 men were arrested during the sting and three more were arrested after follow-up investigations, according to the sheriff.

The suspects, who range in age from 19 to 69 years old, face a long list of felonies, including solicitation of a child and human trafficking.

An Army National Guard sergeant, a former Duval County Public Schools district maintenance employee, and a 33-year-old respiratory therapist who solicited sex from an undercover agent posing as an eight-year-old girl were among those arrested.

“JSO and our partners go to great lengths to keep children safe, and we will continue to conduct operations like this,” according to a statement.

The sheriff’s office also said any victims of the 27 men arrested in Operation Valiant Knights should contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

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