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Miss America agrees to testify in sex sting cases - 1 May, 2007

An undercover sex sting that used Miss America as bait appeared to be in trouble until the beauty queen had changed her mind and agreed to testify against the men she helped arrest.

Lauren Nelson, 20, worked with police in suburban New York to target would-be Internet sexual predators, taped for an episode of the TV show "America's Most Wanted".

She posed as a teenager and lured men into chatting online and meeting her at a Long Island home, where police and crews were waiting. Eleven men were arrested in the sting.

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said Monday that Nelson, who is from Oklahoma, had told prosecutors she did not plan to return to Long Island to testify.

On Tuesday, the Miss America Organization said Nelson is "fully cooperating with the law enforcement officials." Spokeswoman Sharon Pearce said that included the district attorney's office.

"America's Most Wanted" denied that Nelson or anyone connected to her had ever said she would not take the stand.

Nelson herself was traveling and unavailable for comment, Miss America spokeswoman Sharon Pearce said.

District Attorney Thomas Spota released his own statement Tuesday, calling on the 20-year-old to "meet her civic responsibility and testify as a witness to a crime." He later said the Miss America organization contacted his office and assured him that Nelson had no problems testifying.

Spota said that Nelson's continued participation was "absolutely essential" to the cases. His office confirmed that Spota had told prosecutors not to present any more cases to the grand jury until they could determine Nelson's role, especially considering she spoke with at least one of the men arrested.

Spota also used his statement Tuesday to urge caution in using celebrities to fight crime.

Attorney Michael Brown, who represents one of the 11 men swept up in the sting, said he had the right to cross-examine the beauty queen if she contends that she spoke with his client.

"You've now made Miss America a witness," he said.

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