Published on:

Free Speech does not protect an internet conversation involving an attempt to sexually molest a minor; United States v. Farley

The computer sex crimes have been the focus of federal law enforcment due to the number of sexual predators using the internet to make contact with potential victims. In this case a Texas resident began an on-line relationship with a person whom he believed was the mother of an 11 year old girl. The mother expressed an interest to the defendant in having the defendant engage in sexual conduct with the daughter. The person posing as the mother turned out to be an undercover police officer. The 11 year old girl was fictitious.

The defendant had a non-jury trial before the district court judge. He was convicted. At sentencing the district court judge determined that the 30 year mandatory minimum sentence required by the statute (Adam Walsh Act) was in violation of the 8th Amendment as applied to this defendant who was a first offender, a husband, and a father of five.

Several issues were raised in this lengthy opinion.
• the appellate court rejected the argument that the prosecution infringed on the defendant’s right to free speech and
• that it was legally impossible for him to be guilty since there was no actual child.
• The court rejected the defendant’s claim that his post-Miranda statements should have been suppressed because his rights waiver was obtained by deceit (the officer told him that their questioning was regarding a national security/terrorism matter.)

Thirty-year mandatory sentence was not grossly disproportionate and not in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The appellate court reversed the district court’s ruling regarding the Constitutionality of the 30 year mandatory sentence. The court of appeals relied on Harmelin v. Michigan, 501 U.S. 957 (1991) which held that the 8th Amendment does not require strict proportionality between crime and sentence. It only forbids extreme sentences that are “grossly disproportionate” to the crime of conviction.

If you or a love one has been accused of committing an internet crime contact the Swartz Law Firm for immediate assistance in preparing your defense by an attorney specializes in criminal defense.