Internet sex case should be dropped, lawyer says

Argues client committed no crime because officer posed as teen-age girl

August 27, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Arguing that it is legally impossible to intend to rape a male undercover police officer who poses in cyberspace as a 13-year-old girl, the lawyer for a Virginia man accused of traveling to Westminster to have sex with the "girl" called for the case to be dismissed yesterday.

Jean Y. Agbey, 48, of Alexandria was arrested Feb. 20 after he arrived at TownMall in Westminster and was charged with attempted sexual offenses and with using a computer to solicit sex with a minor. Charging documents alleged a series of Internet exchanges in a chat room beginning Feb. 12 with Cpl. Bradley K. Brown, of the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, who was signed on as a local cheerleader named Sarah.

According to the charges, Agbey suggested sexual acts that could only be performed with a female, said defense attorney Charles S. Lazar of Rockville.

"There is no Sarah," Lazar argued. "No victim. No crime."

He added that the alleged criminal use of the computer for child pornography involved private speech, protected by the First Amendment, between adults.

But Assistant State's Attorney Amy L. Blank said the case should go forward because Agbey is charged with attempting to commit crimes against what he believed was a young girl. The fact that "Sarah" turned out to be a man doesn't mean the charges are not legally valid, she argued.

Carroll Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway said he would issue a written decision on the defense motion, and with Agbey's consent, postponed the trial that was to begin today. If convicted, Agbey could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to court documents.

As the task force continues to arrest men who arrange to meet undercover police officers posing on the Internet as under-aged girls - it has made more than 40 such arrests - the Maryland Court of Appeals has been considering a case that addresses such stings.

The Court of Appeals heard arguments in May last year on whether a person can be convicted of attempted unlawful sexual conduct with an undercover police officer via computer transmission.

Prosecutors had appealed a pretrial ruling by a Frederick County judge in a case involving a defendant who allegedly traveled there from New Jersey to have sex with a young girl. The judge found in August 2000 that no crime had been committed because no victim existed.

Recently, the appeals court scheduled new arguments for Sept. 6, said Gary E. Bair of the Maryland attorney general's office.

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