By Patrick Yost
A Madison man arrested in June, 2016 during a child sex operation called “Southern Hospitality” and soon to be released from federal prison will now face local charges of aggravated child molestation, rape and aggravated sodomy.
Percy Harris, 49, is expected to be released from the Butner Federal Prison in Butner, N.C. in December, said Det. Wes Thompson, Madison Police Department but will now have to answer to warrants filed last Friday alleging Harris molested a girl on two separate occasions while the girl was between 6 and 8-years-old between 2014 and 2016.
Harris was one of six men caught in the 2016 “Southern Hospitality” operation that, earlier reports state, was established “to arrest those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor, and the recruitment of victims of child sex trafficking. The operation specifically targeted the demand side of child sex trafficking. The operation also targeted those persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex. On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. The children these predators target are both boys and girls.”
Law enforcement officials from a wide scope of agencies including the Madison Police Department, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, GBI and FBI, set up an operation where the GBI created a fake advertisement on a website known for soliciting sex. When people contacted them, they made it abundantly clear that it would be with a 14-year-old girl. According to Madison Police Chief Bill Ashburn at the time of the operation, most of the people who answered the advertisement immediately rejected the offer once they discovered it involved underage sex. But six people, including Harris, came to Madison believing they were going to engage in sex with a 14-year-old girl.
According to Thompson, Harris pled guilty in federal court on one count use of facilities in international/ state and foreign commerce to transmit information about a minor and was sentenced to 49 months on April 18, 2017.
Thompson said in July of this year the victim, who is now 11-years-old, allegedly told a relative about the alleged abuse. The relative contacted the Newton County Sheriff’s Office who worked with Madison Police Department to investigate the charges.