I agree that this guy (David Anthony Goetzke, of Montana) is guilty to attempting to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b). By writing creepy letters to the minor that, in my view, are precisely what the statute is designed to target. So I'm glad that guy is off the street.
Here's a good law school hypothetical for you, though. D would love to have unlawful sexual activity with Minor, but knows that this would be illegal, and thus refrains from making any advances. He does, however, make sure that whenever he sees Minor, he's dressed really nicely -- nice pants, a tie, etc. -- and believes that doing so will make it more likely that Minor will view him favorably; indeed, perhaps, be sexually attracted towards him. And D likes that; indeed, one reason he dresses nicely in front of Minor is to entice the Minor into being sexually attracted. D does not intend to ever initiate sexual contact with Minor. At the same time, D recognizes that if Minor "started something" consensual, it is possible that D would not resist. And there is a definite part of D that would like something like that to transpire -- a part of him that is consistent with (and, as D recognizes, advanced by) his dressing nicely in front of Minor.
Under those facts, is D guilty of attempting to persuade, induce, or entice a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b)?
Non-pedophiles may recognize the hypothetical from potentially analogous personal experiences; e.g., liking your best friend's girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, etc.
I'm not sure where I come out on the hypothetical. Even though the outcome of the present case seems right to me.