Court of Appeals overturns conviction of Elkridge man in cyberspace sting

September 08, 2005|By Andrea F. Siegel and Lisa Goldberg | Andrea F. Siegel and Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A law that was used to charge people with soliciting sex from a minor cannot be used on defendants caught in cyberspace stings by police posing as children, Maryland's highest court ruled yesterday. However, a law was passed last year that allows such prosecutions.

The Maryland Court of Appeals said that online propositioning of a minor who is really a police officer cannot be prosecuted because there is no child victim, as the law requires. But the practical effect of the ruling is limited because of the 2004 law, which was prompted largely by this case.

The allegations involving Richard Joseph Moore of Elkridge date to 2002.

"There is legislation that was enacted after the Moore argument," said Kathryn Grill Graeff, chief of criminal appeals for the Maryland attorney general's office, which proposed the change after arguing the Moore case before the Court of Appeals in December 2003.

Police said Moore thought he arranged a tryst with two 14-year-olds, but he had instead been corresponding online with a Frederick County deputy sheriff. Moore was met at the agreed-upon location by members of the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

The court's opinion does not mention the 2004 law. Writing for the court in overturning Moore's convictions for soliciting sex with a minor and attempted third-degree sex offense, Judge John C. Eldridge, who is now retired, said legislators repeatedly chose not to change the law over several years.

The new law does not apply to Moore or to others who were charged before it took effect in October last year.

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