Office of Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

August 28, 2000 Media Inquiries: Sean Caine 410-576-6357

Curran says ruling may affect police ability to apprehend sexual predators

Baltimore - Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. announced today that his office will pursue an appeal in the Court of Special Appeals of the dismissal of charges against a New Jersey man accused of using the Internet to solicit sex with a minor.

On August 14, Frederick County Circuit Court Judge Mary Ann Stepler dismissed charges against Donald Taylor, Jr., 44, of Camden, New Jersey, on the grounds that no actual minor was involved in his actions, but rather a Maryland state trooper posing as a 15-year-old girl.

In October 1999, the police received a complaint about Taylor. Thereafter, a police officer, posing as "Stephanie," a 15-year-old-girl living in Frederick, began having Internet chat conversations with Taylor. The charges alleged that these conversations involved Taylor's solicitation of unlawful sexual conduct with "Stephanie." During these conversations, Taylor said that he would bring Stephanie a teddy bear and condoms and pay for a motel room. Taylor arranged to meet "Stephanie" at a Pizza Hut parking lot in Frederick on October 29, 1999. On that date, Taylor checked into a hotel, and he had the condoms and teddy bear as agreed. At 5 p.m., he saw the officer, dressed as a 15-year-old girl, at the designated spot. Taylor made a gesture for the officer to come to his car, and the police arrested him.

Taylor was charged with three counts of solicitation of a minor on the computer, one count for each day of communication on the Internet. Maryland law prohibits the transmission or exchange of information by computer for the purpose of soliciting unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. Taylor was also charged with an attempted third degree sex offense, which involves intercourse with a person 14 or 15 years of age, where the perpetrator is at least 21 years of age, and with attempting to assault a minor in the second degree.

Judge Stepler granted Taylor's motion to dismiss the charges. She dismissed the charges of solicitation of a minor over the Internet because there was no minor involved. She dismissed the attempted third degree sex offense on two grounds: that Taylor had not taken a substantial step toward commission of the crime, and that it was impossible for Taylor to have committed the crime because there was no minor involved.

"We strongly believe this case merits an appeal," Attorney General 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."