Aransas Pass man pleads guilty to soliciting minor for sex

A Victoria County jury sentenced an Aransas Pass man to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to soliciting a minor online for sex.

Michael Andrew Cowan, 59, was also assessed a $10,000 fine.

The trial's punishment phase began Tuesday morning. A jury deliberated for about two hours Tuesday afternoon.

Cowan was arrested Nov. 20 at Riverside Park.

On Nov. 19, Cowan drove more than an hour to Victoria to meet what he thought was a 15-year-old girl he had been text messaging.

When he could not find her and his cellphone died, he went back to Aransas Pass, but not before he left her a voicemail promising to bring her a present. When he was arrested the next day, he had pieces of pills thought to be Viagra in his pocket and a ring in his car, Assistant District Attorney Teresa Easley said.

Cowan had actually been text messaging Victoria Police Detective Cody Breunig.

Breunig, the only witness called by the state during the punishment phase of the trial, is part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which consists of one other Victoria police detective and members of the Texas attorney general's office.

They set aside a week last year in which they searched Craigslist advertisements for the key word "young" and contacted the posters.

Breunig admitted upon questioning from defense attorney Keith Weiser that the advertisement Cowan posted did not contain illegal content.

Weiser also pointed out that Cowan first mentioned meeting about four hours into their text message conversation after Breunig asked "What's the deal with just pics and chatting? What's up?"

Breunig said he was trying to get Cowan to define what they were doing.

Breunig added he would have filed a case regardless of whether Cowan had shown up at Riverside Park because once an adult agrees to meet a minor for sexual conduct, a crime has been committed.

The defense called a Victoria probation officer who supervises 36 sex offenders. She did not find anything about Cowan that would preclude him from being placed on probation.

Online solicitation of a minor sex conduct is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Easley spoke with jurors afterward and said there were those who wanted probation and those who wanted the max.

"They worked hard," she said, and felt that prison was still appropriate for a man who did not have a criminal history, which sends a strong message.

Easley added that while the defense emphasized a real girl was not hurt, that was not thanks to Cowan's behavior but thanks to police being proactive.

The Advocate could not reach Weiser later Tuesday to respond to Easley's comments about the outcome.