ENTICING SOMEONE UNDER THE AGE OF 18 TO ENGAGE IN SEXUAL ACTIVITY CAN RESULT IN A MANDATORY TEN-YEAR SENTENCE
The Ninth Circuit Federal Appeals court just upheld the mandatory minimum sentence of a 45-year-old man for the attempted enticement of a minor to engage in “any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.” He was convicted of one court of 18 U.S.C. section 2422(b). Congress enacted the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to specifically prohibit the enticement “using the mail or any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce, or within the special maritime and territorial jurisdictions of the United States knowing persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years, to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned not less than 10 years or for life.” Since the enactment of the Act, the United States Congress has increased the penalties for this offense three times. The last time was in July 27, 2006, to “life in prison and increasing the mandatory minimum to ten years.”
This man’s offense took place in Oregon. Under Oregon state law his conduct would be a misdemeanor offense. How can he also be charged under federal law? If one commits a state offense which also could be a federal offense, one could be prosecuted in either jurisdiction (Federal or State) or both. More and more possession of child pornography charges are being prosecuted in the Federal courts because the judges in the Federal courts, following Federal Sentencing Guidelines, are imposing lengthy prison sentences for these offenses. It is not that the State courts don’t take these offenses seriously, but most of these type offenders are first time offenders with jobs and families, and are very likely to do very well on probation and not repeat the same offense again. Offender specific therapy is very successful and, for the safety of the community, they don’t need to be placed in prison for years at taxpayer expense. Congress wants to impose lengthy prison sentences, despite the background of the defendant, for these type offenses.
What did this man do? He approached a 16-year-old girl he had seen at his kid’s school in a store. He told her he thought she “looked nice.” He sent her a “friend” request on Facebook. The girl wisely told her father. Her father reported this to the local police. The FBI got involved and had one of their agents pose as the girl on Facebook. An instant message account was established on a Yahoo! email account. The defendant sent messages enticing the girl to have sex with him. Eventually a meeting was set up where the defendant arranged to meet the girl at a train station. The defendant went to the train station to meet her and was arrested. The girl did not go to the train station. When arrested he had alcohol and condoms on his person. He was charged with one count of online enticement of a female minor. The defendant had been reported before to the local police for sending sexually explicit messages to another 16-year-old girl and to an 18- year-old girl, but he was not prosecuted for those incidents.
The defendant can be any age. He or she could be a juvenile or over the age of 18. How many juveniles are using the internet, instant messaging, texting, using Facebook and other social media sites to entice and solicit sexual activity? People say things by text, on Facebook, in email and on social media sites they would never say in person. If your minor under the age of 18 was Federally charged for this offense, they would be tried under the Federal Juvenile rules and laws. They probably would not be facing a ten-year mandatory prison sentence but could face severe custodial and other sanctions. If they are 18 or over, they are facing the same penalties as this defendant.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
1. Talk to your minors. Talk to your spouse or significant other and discuss cases like this. The defendant in the above case has a family. He is now facing a minimum sentence of ten years in a Federal penitentiary.
2. Supervise your minors texting, their Facebook page, Instant Messaging and other social media sites. Put parental controls in place to block sexual material. Please review our prior blogs on these subjects.
3. Do not permit your minors to restrict you from having access to the above. If they will not permit you to regularly review and supervise what they are texting, sending and posting, don’t allow it or pay for it.