It is a story we are hearing quite often these days. Someone is allegedly using the internet to lure an underage boy or girl into sexual activity. I don’t know how many adults are engaging in that practice successfully…but there are certainly a large number of such adults who are actually exchanging such messages with an undercover law enforcement officer.

Paul Hinkel, 57, of Chester, Connecticut and hereinafter the “Defendant” is one man who was convicted yesterday of such a crime.

The Defendant had come to Massachusetts for “love” with what he thought was a 15-year-old girl.

She wasn’t one.

Instead, when he ended up in Watertown last March, he found himself paired with a federal agent…who was, to be sure, of age. Apparently, the bag he had brought with him allegedly containing a stuffed animal, sexual paraphernalia and cologne, did not help him too much either.

The Defendant wound up in Boston’s Federal District Court, facing charges including using the Internet to lure a minor to engage in sex. In other words, rape.

Prosecutors say the Defendant drove to Watertown last March in response to a Craigslist ad in which a woman sought a man who might be interested in a relationship with her daughter. The ad was actually placed by Homeland Security agents. The “daughter” was a federal investigator.

The Defendant faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years and the maximum of a life sentence in prison at sentencing in May.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Prospective Defenses To Internet Sex Crime

“Sam, how can he be prosecuted for luring a child? He never even was in contact with a child!”

In some instances in criminal law, a try is as good as a success.

In this case, the government’s case was clearly that the Defendant had tried to lure a child and, in fact, took the affirmative steps to make that effort pay off (for example, coming to Massachusetts with his little goodie bag).

How was that argument fought against in this case? I don’t know. I was not there. I can certainly think of some arguments…but nobody asked me in this case.

“Sam, why wasn’t this entrapment?”

The defense of entrapment is a commonly misunderstood concept. In this case, while it was the government who put the advertisement in Craigslist and engaged the Defendant in the communications, it would be difficult for the Defendant to win at trial with such a defense.

First of all, keep in mind that the federal agent did not just show up at the Defendant’s door offering a young child up. They placed an advertisement. It was the Defendant who responded to the advertisement.

Now, you may want to argue that the advertisement was so well crafted so as to destroy an contrary will on the Defendant’s part to resist it so that the Defendant really got sucked into the government’s web almost against his will. However, in order to prevail on a claim of entrapment, the defense also has to show that, left alone, the Defendant would never have tried to engage an underage girl in sexual conduct.

Cases like this can be quite tricky. I can tell you that, more than with other types of criminal trials, jurors come in with pretty strong ideas of innocence and guilt. Particularly the former. These cases are emotional and jurors tend to feel badly for the idea of a young victim…even when the “victim” is not really so young at all.

There is another more surprising and troubling aspect to this case.

Let’s discuss that in my next posting.

Until then, KEEP WARM!

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