Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Ohio Priest Busted After Internet Solicitation

The article is found here. In criminal law we studied a similar situation in which the man charged with claimed a defense of "impossibility." It also wreaks of entrapment, on the part of the police. Let me preface this by admitting that I don't have kids, which could realistically affect one's view of this issue, but is this really the way to protect children from these types of predators? Something about this just seems a little "off," for two reasons:

1) The crime could not actually be committed (see impossibility); and
2) Is punishing someone for this a little like the futuristic, sci-fi crime film Minority Report?

10 Comments:

Blogger ed said...

I was curious about entrapment and looked it up on Wikipedia (keeping with our Internet theme) and it seemed that this might not be entrapment because (quoting from Wikipedia) "For the defense (of entrapment) to be successful, the defendant must demonstrate that the police induced an otherwise unwilling person to commit a crime. However, when a person is predisposed to commit a crime, offering opportunities to commit the crime is not entrapment, such as in the widely held misconception that policemen must answer questions truthfully if they are asked the same question three times, or that they must say "yes" if asked if they are a police officer." See entry in Wikipedia here and also see Slate article on the subject of internet entrapment

10:12 AM  
Blogger limewash said...

Going along with Ed's comment concerning entrapment, a similar argument why the defendant's plea of impossibility and entrapment shouldn't hold up in court is that this is not a crime that we would want to wait for the actual commission to occur before punishing the defendant. In Crim Law class we also studied the concepts of allowing potential criminals the opportunity to abandon the crime before actual commission, however, I recall that once the person takes steps beyond simple preparation, then he is guilty of attempt, even if he hasn't completed the crime. In this case, just because the victim he thought he was going to meet turned out to be someone else, which made the particular instance of the crime impossible, that does not change the fact that he attempted to [insert all applicable crimes] with the girl.

In an example given in Crim Law, a criminal who attempts to rob a bank by going to the scene of the would-be crime is already guilty of attempt, even if he never walks into the bank itself.

I think this goes along with public policy. The idea of stricter requirements on criminal prosecution is to protect the potentially "innocent" citizens, but that should balance with the goal of criminal prosecution, which is to protect citizens from criminals. The police, in "offering" the opportunity for the priest to chat with a teenage girl, can't possibly trap anyone who doesn't ask for sex from someone who makes her (fake) underage status known from the beginning (as Ed's post notes about the definition of entrapment).

Letting him go in this circumstance on an impossibility plea would be protecting the wrong person.

10:51 AM  
Blogger joemama said...

I absolutely agree with Limewash, as far as not wanting to let the guy go, but if this becomes a standard practice, what comes next? So many of our current privacy "rights" are in question right now, and each time we concede one of them for a particular interest, (compelling or otherwise) we are chipping away at our future rights to privacy.

1:43 PM  
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3:42 PM  
Blogger ed said...

does anyone else think its a bit strange that we are getting get rich quick schemes advertised on this post?

5:21 PM  
Blogger joemama said...

Definitely strange! Maybe it's some government/police investigator trying to sniff out Internet wrongdoers--they got word of my post, and got suspicious that I was doing something wrong . . .

6:20 PM  
Blogger limewash said...

Should there be privacy for people who are attempting to commit a crime (especially one targeting children)? What I mean is, this whole police set up seems to be able to only target people who make an effort to commit the crime (i.e., the would-be teenager makes his/her age clear at the beginning, and only those who want to proposition a teenager for sex are really at risk of being "trapped"). Does society as a whole lose a part of its right to privacy? And even if, by some leap in logic, it does, I don't really see this as a method that the government can use to chip away at your rights; there's a huge difference between pretending to be a little girl online to lure criminals out of hiding compared to tapping someone's communications just in case someone has criminal tendencies. If you have an example illustrating how the government could infringe on our rights as a result of allowing this practice to continue, that would help clarify.

The public would have to be pretty stupid to let such a chipping-away-of-our-rights continue from such a practice.

Oh wait... :)

As for mass marketers, I think we should prosecute them for littering (or change the littering laws to cover internet trash).

8:44 AM  
Blogger joemama said...

What I believe is that sooner or later, investigators looking for pedophiles are going to look for other things--things that, as a matter of public policy, are not nearly as "bad" as pedophilia. Pedophilia is probably the most despicable crime I can imagine, and one not to be tolerated.

But what if they start busting people for simply soliciting sex from adults? Sure it's a crime (malum prohibitum), but do we really give a s**t? The type of investigatory techniques that police are using could easily be used to spy on people using AOL instant messenger, and the like. People often say things that they would not want to be known by anyone other than the intended recipient. Ergo, there's a legitimate expectation of privacy that exists, and police shouldn't be allowed to breach it without a warrant.

Does that mean I want to let pedophiles continue? Hell no. But I am not of the opinion that everybody must suffer, to catch a few bad people. Anybody have Dressler? I think it's some kind of anti-utilitarian argument, but correct me if I'm wrong.

And, btw, I think it is a federal crime to send spam e-mail now (and I couldn't applaud louder). There was an article in the Post (I think) that mentioned the first guys to actually get sentenced to prison for this. I'll look for it.

12:39 PM  
Blogger limewash said...

Don't they already prosecute solicitation of sex (in places other than Nevada proper)? I mean, that's what vice squads do, amongst other things, right? The reason why they don't do the "sting" operation against adult sexual solicitation online is simply a matter of efficiency, I think. For it to be illegal between adults, there has to be money involved (prostitution is illegal, while merely asking for sex is not--can you imagine the number of "criminals" being busted at the local college bar/club otherwise?). There are simply too many adults online asking for sex from someone--virtual or otherwise--for the police to comb through them all looking for a prostitution ring, when they can do so in real life with a lot less resources. However, I think if money were not a factor, the police would already try to catch adults trying to buy sex online (if they don't already), and I'm honestly not sure there would be an uproar about it, in light of real life practices of vice squads.

7:21 PM  
Blogger joemama said...

Do we really want to allocate gov't resources to go after people who are just "being human?" We're talking about sex, not genocide. I'd rather spend that money trying to get the people like Skilling (Enron), who are ruining the lives of hundreds of thousands of faithful investors.

6:59 AM  

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