Sex Case Dismissed Because ‘Victim’ Was a Cop

Maryland Officials Appeal Court Ruling

APBnews.com
Sept. 1, 2000
By Amy Worden

FREDERICK, Md. (APBnews.com) — The state attorney general is appealing a
court decision to dismiss charges against a New Jersey man because the
teenage girl he was accused of soliciting online was in fact an adult
police officer.

Donald Taylor, 44, of Camden, N.J., was arrested by Maryland State Police
last October and charged with a third-degree sex offense and solicitation
of a minor using a computer following an investigation that involved a
trooper portraying a 15-year-old girl in an Internet chat room.

Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Mary Ann Stepler threw out the case
earlier this month, ruling there was no crime because no minor was
involved.

Brought Teddy bear and condoms

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran this week called Stepler’s decision
“wrong” because Taylor had taken “substantial steps” toward committing a
crime.

He said Taylor understood he was coming to Maryland to have sex with an
underage girl named “Stephanie.”

“He brought a Teddy bear and condoms, as the two had discussed, and came
to the parking lot to meet her,” Curran told APBnews.com. “Every
substantial step was taken other than the sex act itself.”

‘The only way to do it’

Curran said that if the ruling stands, it could potentially harm future
Internet crime investigations — a fast-growing area of law enforcement
– in Maryland.

“We strongly believe this case merits an appeal,” Curran said. “It’s an
important case because the judge’s ruling may limit police ability to
apprehend sexual predators. Other jurisdictions have held that a police
officer can pose as a minor, and the perpetrator can still be punished
for the intended crime.”
He said such stings are the only way to catch sexual predators who stalk
young people in Internet chat rooms. Setting up law enforcement officers
in chat rooms “is the only way to do it,” Curran said. “We can’t have a
13-year-old girl have sex with someone before we arrest them.”

Experts: Ruling unusual

Legal experts say the have not heard of any similar statutes being
challenged elsewhere and doubt the circuit court ruling will set a
national precedent.

“It would be out of step with strong, modern trends for legal
impossibility,” said Paul Robinson, a criminal law professor at
Northwestern University. “You can’t say he wasn’t dangerous or didn’t
demonstrate his intent to commit a crime.”

Maryland State Police spokesman Corp. Rob Moroney declined to comment on
the specific case or the ruling, but said the cyber crime unit will
“continue to make cases against child pornographers and online stalkers.”

Taylor had an earlier conviction on molestation charges in Maryland,
authorities said. “This wasn’t just some voyeur,” said Curran.

Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals will hear the case within the next
month, he said.

Amy Worden is an APBnews.com staff writer (amy.worden@apbnews.com

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