Don't get excited by the headline.
This is an actual convicted internet pervert, not an alleged internet pervert like former O'Sullivan Industries official Gary Reed Blankenship of Neosho, but the decision issued Wednesday by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on a Kansas case may be the first appellate court ruling on the legality of internet scam operations to collar perverts who are trolling the Internet for underage children. Several of those netted by Diamond police officer Jim Murray with his internet traps have been convicted, but none have appealed as directly on the issue of so-called entrapment as the Kansas case does.
First, a little background on the case, taken from the court record.
On May 17, 2002, Lester William Crayton, 47, Hays, Kan., sent an Internet chat room request to an undercover detective, who was posing as a 14-year-old girl. After the detective answered, Crayton asked the alleged minor "numerous sexually-oriented questions, described graphic sexual activity to her, and asked her to send him a picture of herself."
At that point, Crayton sent her "computer-generated images as examples of nude photos that he had received from other minors. He also offered to teach her about sex, (had sex with himself) as the detective looked on via webcam, and offered to buy the minor a bus ticket from Illinois to Kansas so that they could engage in sexual relations," according to the opinion.
The police kept in touch with Crayton. In chats on May 29, June 6, and June 18, 2002, he continued to talk about providing her with bus transportation to Kansas, continuing to describe "sexual acts he would perform on the minor and made plans to photograph her in various stages of undress."
On June 24, according to the opinion, the detectives received a bus ticket addressed to the fictitious 14-year-old. Three days later, they set up surveillance at a Kansas bus stop. When police saw Crayton waiting they approached him, questioned him and he admitted he had bought the bus ticket and sent it to the "minor" and that his goal was to have sex with her.
Crayton pleaded guilty to one count of using a facility of interstate commerce to attempt to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity. He was given a longer sentence because "the intended victim was under 16 years old," and even longer because he used a computer to try to get an underaged victim to "engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing sexually explicit material. Crayton was eventually sentenced to nine years in prison.
Crayton appealed the severity of his sentence, giving three arguments.
First, he said he did not commit an actual crime, it was merely an attempt.
Second, He said the court erred because he did not seek "by notice or advertisement" a minor in order to have sex to produce sexually explicit material.
Finally, he said, the sentence should not have been increased because his intended victim was underage since this intended victim did not exist.
The appellate panel ruled there was no doubt Crayton had planned to have sex and record it. As far Crayton's contention that there was no underage girl, the opinion said, "Defendant does not deny that he intended to victimize a 14-year-old girl, but contends only that this enhancement does not apply because the intended victim did not actually exist and because the officers with whom he communicated were not less than 16 years old. We reject defendant's argument."
The 10th District Court covers a number of states, including Kansas and Oklahoma, so the ruling applies directly in those states, but does not necessarily apply to any Missouri case.