Supreme Court upholds Internet child sex conviction
June 14, 2007
The Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a conviction for attempting to lure a child into a sexual situation even though the “child” was actually an undercover officer.
Jeffrey Lee Johnson pleaded guilty to charges because of the content of Internet exchanges with law enforcement officers who were posing as 14-year-old girls.
He didn’t file a direct appeal but attempted to get the conviction overturned by arguing he didn’t actually communicate with any children and, therefore, isn’t guilty of attempting to lure a child.
The district court rejected the petition, ruling violation of the “attempt” provision doesn’t actually require a child victim. He based that petition on the high court’s ruling in State v. Colosimo, which held a conviction for unlawful contact with a child actually requires a child victim instead of an undercover enforcement officer.
“In order to commit the offense described, a defendant’s intended victim must be less than 16 years of age,” that opinion stated.
But that rule doesn’t apply to an attempt to unlawfully contact a child.
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“In an attempt crime such as that at issue here, the defendant’s intent is key,” according to the opinion by Justices Jim Hardesty, Ron Parraguirre and Nancy Saitta.
“When he entered his guilty plea, Johnson admitted that he used a computer in an attempt to contact children and suggest they meet for sexual conduct,” the opinion stated.
That, they ruled, was sufficient to establish his intent to commit a crime.
The opinion also cites a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling stating no minor victim is needed to sustain a conviction for violating the attempt provision of the federal statute “as long as the defendant believed the person with whom he was corresponding was a minor.”
“His conviction was proper even though there was no actual child at risk, only an adult posing as a child,” Thursday’s opinion states.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.