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Milwaukee man asserts equal protection for sex crime laws

A 55-year-old Milwaukee resident is challenging the constitutionality of a 2012 law that mandates a five-year minimum prison sentence for people convicted of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. The man is said to have solicited a sexual encounter by posting an ad on Craigslist. The man is accused of arranging a meeting with someone he thought was a 15-year-old boy who responded to his Craigslist ad.

The person with whom the man was actually meeting was a police officer who took the man into his custody. The man allegedly exchanged texts, photos and emails with the "child" for three days. Now faced with a charge of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, the accused is arguing that the mandatory minimum sentence for conviction of the crime violates his equal protection guarantees under both state and federal constitutions.

The defense's argument is that a five year minimum sentence is unfair given that the man may not be receiving any time in jail had he actually had sex with a 15-year-old. Although both of computer solicitation and second-degree sexual assault are both Class C felonies, the latter charge does not carry any mandatory minimum.

Prosecutors say that the mandatory minimum sentence for computer solicitation has a rational basis given that the crime is more calculated and predatory than second-degree sexual assault. Prosecutors cited a case in their defense that stated that enticing a child was "a social evil in and of itself."

Defense attorneys retorted that simply labeling a crime a "social evil" does not provide justification for a significantly harsher minimum sentence than those given for more insidious crimes. A Milwaukee County Circuit Judge will rule on the defense's motion to dismiss the penalty enhancer next month.

Source: JS Online, "Should penalty for enticing a minor be harsher than for actual assault?", Bruce Vielmetti, October 13, 2013

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