Craigslist Ad Leads to 11-Year Prison Sentence

internet crime, sex crimes, cyber crime, craigslist, criminal law, Illinois criminal defenseBecause of its global nature, the Internet can turn a local crime into a federal offense. This is especially true when it comes to sex crimes involving minors. A defendant faces a minimum of 10 years in prison if he or she uses “the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce”– including the Internet—to solicit sex from a minor. One defendant recently attempted to test the scope of this law and failed.

Using an Adult to Get to the Child

Harry McMillan was a law school student in Carbondale. One day in 2010, he posted an ad on the popular classified website Craigslist. In the ad, he invited parents to “sell me your teenage daughter.” This caught the attention of undercover detective Mike Andrews. Andrews, now a local police chief, was part of an Internet Crimes Task Force that included the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the United States Secret Service.

Andrews posed as a willing father and answered McMillan’s ad. Andrews promised McMillan access to his (non-existent) teenage daughter. They arranged a meeting at a movie theater. Andrews appeared with an adult female posing as the daughter. Andrews then spoke with McMillan, who requested nude pictures of the “daughter.” Andrews handed McMillan an envelope, and the minute he opened it, McMillan was arrested.

McMillan was convicted on one count of enticing a minor to engage in prostitution and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. On appeal, he argued the trial court interpreted the law too broadly. He never spoke to the alleged minor, only the man posing as her father, and the law should not criminalize a conversation between two adults.

The Chicago-based 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals did not agree with McMillan. Chief Judge Diane Wood, writing for a three-judge panel, noted that at least six other federal appeals courts had previously rejected McMillan’s proposed interpretation. And “even if all of those cases did not exist,” Judge Wood observed, “we would not be inclined to read the statute as narrowly as McMillan does. ”

The law makes it a crime to “persuade, entice, coerce, and induce” a minor to engage in illegal sexual activity. Judge Wood said that included McMillan’s conduct, which attempted to use a parent “as an intermediary to convey the defendant’s message to the child.” The use of such intermediaries is commonplace in child sex crime cases. What is important, Wood said, was “the defendant’s attempt (or attempted effect) on the child’s mind.”

Protecting Yourself Online

As the McMillan case demonstrates, police are just as savvy as potential criminals when it comes to exploiting the Internet, and the courts are willing to take a broad view of what constitutes criminal behavior when it comes to child sex crimes. That is why if you or someone you know is facing federal sex crimes charges, it is essential you consult with an experienced Illinois criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney today for a consultation.

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