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Sex Offender's 'Royal' Pose Foiled by Youths

January 17, 2006|From Associated Press

OAK PARK HEIGHTS, Minn. — A convicted sex offender who said he just wanted some respect tried to pass himself off as a teenage member of English nobility -- until some high school journalists uncovered his past.

Joshua Adam Gardner, 22, visited Stillwater Area High School three times in December and January, posing as Caspian James Crichton-Stuart IV, the Fifth Duke of Cleveland. He told students that he was 17 and interested in attending the school.

He also said he was 27th in line for the British throne.

"Becoming 'Caspian,' I was given respect," Gardner said in an interview from jail broadcast Monday on NBC's "Today." "And people

"I didn't mean to hurt anybody," he said.

Reporters at the Stillwater school newspaper, the Pony Express, thought "Caspian's" story would be an interesting feature.

"He was demanding that we call him 'Your Grace,' " said Chantel Leonhart, one of the paper's managing editors. "He even demanded that the principal call him 'Your Grace.' "

Research led students to websites linking the pseudonym to Gardner's real name and to a Florida state registry of sex offenders. The student reporters learned that Gardner was convicted in 2003 of criminal sexual conduct in Winona County, in southeastern Minnesota, for having sex with an underage girlfriend two years earlier, when she was 14.

He was put on probation and had apparently been living lately in Stillwater and Austin, Minn.

Minnesota had informed Florida of his sex offense record because he had moved to that state at one point, Minnesota Department of Corrections spokeswoman Liz McClung said.

After school officials told police what the students had uncovered, Gardner's probation officer contacted him and he agreed to turn himself in.

He has been held in jail since Jan. 9, accused of violating terms of his parole by not always registering his changes of address, not observing restrictions on his Internet access, not getting counseling and for having unsupervised contact with minors.

He was denied bail Friday and a hearing on the alleged probation violations is set for Feb. 8, said Winona County Attorney Chuck MacLean. He could be sent to prison for 21 months.

Principal Chris Lennox said there were no problems during Gardner's school visits and that a staff member was always with him.

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