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Sussex man charged after online sex sting

A Sussex man was charged with a misdemeanor after he allegedly had sexually graphic conversations with a sheriff's deputy posing as a 15-year-old girl in an online chat room.

Gale E. Runningen, 50, faces up to nine months in prison and a $10,000 fine. He allegedly had a number of conversations with the undercover deputy between April and August 2012. The deputy was part of the Cyber Crimes Task Force at the Sheriff's Department.

According to the criminal complaint filed in Waukesha County Circuit Court on Oct. 23, the conversations occurred in a Yahoo instant messenger chat room, where the deputy posed as a 15-year-old girl named Danielle living in the Waukesha area. Runningen allegedly asked to see a picture of the girl, which deputies provided. Runningen allegedly told her she was "gorgeous" and inquired about whether she had a webcam.

The complaint described a number of graphic conversations. He allegedly made comments about giving her a massage, engaging in sexual activity with the girl, and instructions on how to masturbate, the complaint alleged.

On Aug. 12, a detective arrived at his home to question him. According to the complaint, he became visibly upset and began to cry before admitting to having the conversations with the fictitious 15-year-old.

During the questioning, Runningen stated that he tried to acquire an address for the girl so he could lure her outside to flash her breasts. He also said he attempted to meet with her on several occasions and that he wanted to take her to an adult store in Waukesha to purchase a sexual device. Runningen described another incident in which he asked the girl to meet him at Waukesha Memorial Hospital so they could meet and kiss.

According to the complaint, he said he had conversed with other young girls in the past.

He was charged with attempting to expose a child to a harmful description or narrative account. His initial appearance is Nov. 5.

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