Thomas LaBlanc convicted of felony for having cybersex with 15-year-old he thought was 16

LaBlanc's controversial conviction could prompt a review of Minnesota statute.
LaBlanc's controversial conviction could prompt a review of Minnesota statute.

St. Paul resident Thomas LaBlanc, 66, is a Native American dancer who travels the country. While in Missouri in early 2009, he met a boy who later reached out to him on social media. The boy's Myspace profile said he was 16, but he was really 13 or 14 at the time.

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The two ended up having a cyber-sexual relationship involving exchanges of nude photos and messages via social media (though no webcams, apparently). Had the boy really been 16, there wouldn't have been anything illegal about that, but since he wasn't, LaBlanc ended up being charged with a felony. He was recently convicted of solicitation of a child for sexual conduct via the internet and could spend up to three years in prison.

From the Star Tribune:

The two had never met face to face, and the case raises questions about the constitutionality of the Minnesota law, as well as possible implications for people who could get charged for sexually arousing minors via the Internet -- even if they mistakenly believe the other person is older, LaBlanc's attorney, Jeff Dean, said Tuesday...

"It is undisputed that the other person did not tell my client his true age of 15 and that he misrepresented his age as 16," Dean said. "Moreover, it appears from his pictures posted on his profile that he is about 19 or older."

Dean and LaBlanc are appealing the decision. Dean argues the part of Minnesota statute stating that being mistaken about a child's age is no defense in cases like LaBlanc's is unconstitutional.

"Our legal argument is that the strict liability nature of the statute violates due process and chills freedom of speech when the prohibited communications occur over the internet with no face to face contact," Dean told the Strib.

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