Monday, October 13, 2008

SC Supreme Court affirms conviction of criminal solicitation of a minor

In State v. Gaines, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld a conviction under our recently enacted Criminal Solicitation of a Minor statute. Gaines was an Internet predator who used AOL chat rooms to engage in conversations with young girls. Unknown to Gaines, two of the friends he met on line were police officers. A police officer in Pennsylvania reported his conduct to authorities in South Carolina, and an officer in South Carolina contacted Gaines via AOL. The officer pretended to be a 13 year old girl and Gaines suggested they meet for sex.
After conviction, Gaines appealed and argued that the evidence regarding the chats with the officer in Pennsylvania should have been inadmissible. This contention was rejected because under Rule 404(b) crimes or evidence crimes, wrongs, or acts similar to those that the defendant is on trial for, can be admitted to show motive, identity, or the existence of a common plan or scheme.

Gaines also argued he was entitled to an entrapment instruction. The entrapment defense consists of two elements: (1) government inducement, and (2) lack of pre-disposition. Gaines argued that because the South Carolina police officer first contacted him with the message "Hey" constituted entrapment. The Supreme Court disagreed and said that the initial contact merely afforded Gaines the opportunity to solicit sex. He was in no way induced to commit the crime of criminal solicitation with a minor.

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