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Court Affirms Internet Sting Conviction Rejecting Entrapment Defense

May 9, 2019

The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions for computer exploitation and criminal attempt to commit child molestation, rejecting his defenses that he abandoned the offense or that he was entrapped by the police.

In Reid v. State, the defendant began communicating online with a police officer who was posing as a 15-year-old girl. Interestingly, the picture sent to the defendant of “the girl” was actually a photo of a female deputy at the sheriff’s office. However, the defendant never argued that he didn’t believe she was 15 and instead acknowledged during the chats that he was “really a lot older than [her].”

They agreed to a meeting location and the defendant pulled into the parking lot. He sat in his car for several minutes and then backed out of the parking space and attempted to drive away. He was subsequently stopped by the police and arrested.

The defendant was indicted for one count of criminal attempt to commit child molestation and two counts of violating the computer exploitation and pornography act. He initially pleaded guilty but then successfully moved to withdraw his plea. He then proceeded to a bench trial and was convicted on all counts.

On appeal, the defendant argued that his attempt to leave the parking lot prior to actually meeting “the girl” constituted an abandonment of the offense and precludes his conviction for attempt to commit child molestation. The Court of Appeals disagreed, noting that an attempt to commit an offense is established when the defendant takes a “substantial step” toward committing the offense.

The court pointed to the fact that the defendant asked “the girl” for naked pictures of herself, told her that he was horny and a “dirty old man,” and that he told her he was “pretty excited” to meet up with her. As such, the Court concluded that the defendant took a substantial step toward committing the offense of child molestation by arranging to meet up with “the girl.”

The Court of Appeals also rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence established the affirmative defense of entrapment. First, the Court stated that generally, in order to raise an entrapment defense, the defendant must first admit to committing the crime and then show that he did so as a result of the conduct of the police. The Court acknowledged that in some instances, even without an admission by the defendant, an entrapment defense may be viable so long as the State’s evidence raises a reasonable inference of entrapment.

However, the Court emphasized that the defendant did not testify or present any evidence at trial, did not expressly admit to committing the offense, did not demonstrate any hesitation in communicating with “the girl” and making plans to meet with her, but did express concerns about being discovered by law enforcement or “the girl’s” parents. Thus, the Court concluded that the evidence did not support an entrapment defense.

As a result, the Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for computer exploitation and criminal attempt to commit child molestation.

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