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Internet sex crimes can carry tough punishments

A recent case where a 56-year-old's conviction and sentence was upheld for using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime proves the at times complicated nature of Internet sex crimes. In this case, the man ended up being sentenced to five years, which in some cases, is more time than if he had actually assaulted a minor. 

In this case, according to the charges against the 56-year-old, a 15-year-old boy went to go meet the man outside of a drug store. This was after the man and this 15-year-old boy had spent the last three days texting, sending emails and photos. This relationship also grew out of the 15-year-old responding to an ad the 56-year-old had posted on Craigslist.

The thing with all of this though is that there was no 15-year-old boy. Rather, this was a police officer posing as a 15-year-old. This was why when the man went to go meet the boy at the drug store, he was confronted and arrested. 

The 56-year-old ended up being charged with using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, which is a felony. Since 2012, this type of felony charge has carried with it a five year minimum mandatory prison sentence. 

After being convicted, the man tried to fight this charge, with his attorney claiming it was violating his constitutional rights as it was a violation of equal protection to have such a lengthy sentence when an actual assault of a minor could have resulted in a lighter punishment than the five year sentence.

The judge who considered the case ended up denying the motion. While he agreed an actual assault may not have resulted in a five year sentence -- and could have even led to probation -- there is a rather high burden that must be met by the defense in order for a statute to be found unconstitutional. 

Rather, this strict sentencing reflects the strong stance lawmakers were taking at the time when it came to Internet sex crimes involving minors. 

Overall, for those in Minnesota who are facing similar charges, this case goes to show that even in cases where there was no actual physical assault, the punishment upon conviction can still be rather severe and result in prison time. This is why any type of Internet sex crime, including online solicitation of a minor, should always be taken seriously.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Milwaukee County judge denies man's challenge to sex sting law," Bruce Vielmetti, Nov. 25, 2013

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