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With kids who lie about their age, internet sex is no longer a crime

Minnesota court says it's unconstitutional to convict a man for sending a sexually explicit photo to a 14-year-old who claims she's 35.

Minnesota court says it's unconstitutional to convict a man for sending a sexually explicit photo to a 14-year-old who claims she's 35.

Attorney Jeffrey Dean makes a living helping guys who have been convicted of soliciting children. 

Last month, Dean won a major exoneration for 44-year-old Mark Moser, who was caught talking dirty to a 14-year-old girl on Facebook in 2014. 

The girl he was chatting with online lied about her age. She claimed she was 16, the legal age of consent in Minnesota. The two never met in person, and though Moser asked, the girl never sent him a picture of herself.

Moser tried to say he was legitimately misled about the girl’s age. A judge would have none of it. Minnesota law expressly prohibits the “mistake of age” defense in order to deter willfully ignorant pedos. Moser was convicted as a felon, sentenced to prison, and ordered to register as a sex offender.

So Dean took the fight to the Court of Appeals, arguing that Minnesota’s laws were obsolete. In the age of the internet, he said, people chat and flirt with relative anonymity all the time.

“You have a statute that allows for innocent people to be convicted as sex offenders,” Dean says. “To me that’s very serious. I mean, you could have a child who just for fun goes on and represents himself or herself as 35 years old, somebody buys it, and the talk turns sexual. That’s all it takes. That person is now a convicted sex offender.”

The Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that banning the “mistake of age” defense was unconstitutional in internet cases.

It’s an even bigger deal for Dean in an uncannily similar case involving a St. Paul man who had cybersex with a 15-year-old boy whom he believed to be at least 20. In that case, the court cleared the man on grounds that the prosecutors had insufficient evidence to prove that he knew the boy was underage.

In 2015, Dean notably defended women charged as prostitutes after undercover Minneapolis police officers were found to have received handjobs from them before arresting them.