Legal Blog

Court Reverses Two Counts for Defendant Convicted in Internet Sting Case

May 7, 2024

The Court found that the evidence was insufficient since the defendant did not engage in sexually explicit conversation nor request a sexually explicit photo.

In Boone v. State, the defendant’s convictions for obscene internet contact with a child and sexual exploitation were reversed due to the Georgia Court of Appeals’ finding that the evidence was insufficient to prove the elements of those offenses. The Court did affirm the defendant’s convictions on the remaining charges.

Internet Sting Operation

An investigator with the Floyd County Police Department was conducting an internet sting operation with the Georgia ICAC Task Force. She placed an ad on Craigslist that read, “looking for a friend to do whatever with so I can get out of bad situation.”

The defendant responded to the ad and was told by “the girl” that she needed money to get out of the foster home that she was in. She told the defendant that she was 14 years old.

The defendant then suggested that she could come to his house and “keep him company.” He said, “I had a few ideas initially, but you’re so young.”

They went back and forth about it and “the girl” asked what she’d be doing at the defendant’s house. He said, “cooking, housekeeping, massages, and laundry.” He then said that she “probably couldn’t handle the other things, LOL. You’re too young.”

She asked him what other things, and he replied, “sexual stuff. You wouldn’t know anything about that.” “The girl” then said that she has “done oral.”

A year later, the defendant reached back out to her and said that he still wanted to see her. He asked if she “was cool just to chill in the car for a bit and ride around and talk.” He also asked her to send him a selfie and wanted to see her body. He then asked whether she would send him a nude picture without her face in it. She then sent him a fully clothed picture and he said that she was cute.

When he arrived to meet “the girl,” he was arrested by the officers.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

The defendant was convicted of the above charges in addition to trafficking an individual for sexual servitude, criminal attempt to commit child molestation, and computer pornography.

On appeal, he contended that due to the lack of any explicit sexual conversation between him and “the girl,” the evidence was insufficient to convict him of any of the offenses.

The Court of Appeals held that by him just suggesting “sexual stuff” to the girl, that was enough to establish the commission of the sex trafficking, attempted child molestation, and computer pornography offenses.

The appeals court reached a different result with regard to the other two offenses.

For the offense of obscene internet contact with a child, the statute requires that the conversation involve “explicit verbal descriptions or narrative accounts of sexually explicit nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse.”

The Court agreed with the defendant that his conversation did not involve “explicit verbal descriptions” or “narrative accounts” as required by the statute. It concluded that the general references to “sexual stuff” and “oral” were not the type of sexually explicit language that was contemplated by the statute.

The Court likewise held that the defendant’s conviction for sexual exploitation of a child must also be reversed. Sexual exploitation involves the possession or production of child pornography, or an effort to get a child to engage in sexual conduct for the purpose of creating child pornography.

Child pornography is defined as a depiction of a child engaged in “sexually explicit conduct” which can include a picture depicting the lewd exhibition of the child’s genitals or pubic area.

In this case, the defendant asked merely for a nude picture and did not ask for anything involving sexual conduct or lewd exhibition. The Court pointed out that when “the girl” sent him the fully clothed picture, the defendant did not ask for anything more.

The State argued that the jury could use their common sense and find that when the defendant asked for a nude picture, he was asking the child for a sexually explicit one. However, the Court stated that “it is simply too far of a stretch to say that his request was an attempt to persuade her to send him a photograph of her lewdly displayed genitals or pubic area.”

As a result, the Court reversed the defendant’s convictions for that offense as well as the charge of obscene internet contact with a child.

More Posts in Internet Sting Cases

More Posts