Utah Prostitution Stings – Catching Culprits of Opportunity or Entrapment

Although paying or receiving funds for sexual activity is against the law, many wonder if Johns arrested during prostitution stings in Utah are culprits of opportunity or victims of entrapment.

Catching one of their own

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A prostitution sting on Valentine’s Day netted the arrest of 51 year old David Moss of Lehi, Utah. Undercover detectives with the Utah County Special Victims Task Force arrested Moss, who was a former police officer with the St. George Police Department after he responded to a prostitution ad online and met two undercover female detectives posing as prostitutes. Moss’s arrest came after he made several incriminating statements online and in person including offers to “manage” the prostitutes and hide their activity from police. He also followed these comments with inappropriate behavior directed at one of the undercover officers.

Patronizing a prostitute

Moss was arrested for multiple charges including patronizing a prostitute which is described by section 76-10-1303 as “when the individual:
(a) Pays or offers or agrees to pay a prostitute, or an individual the actor believes to be a prostitute, a fee, or the functional equivalent of a fee, for the purpose of engaging in an act of sexual activity; or
(b) Enters or remains in a place of prostitution for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.”

Pimps vs Johns

Moss is also facing charges of exploiting prostitution, a third degree felony compared to patronizing a prostitute which is punishable as a class A misdemeanor for a first defense. While patronizing a prostitute is the typical charge for “Johns”, exploiting prostitution would be the charge for the “pimps” or those wishing to recruit or manage others in prostitution. Third degree exploiting prostitution is defined by Utah Code 76-10-1305 as when “an individual:
(a) Procures an individual for a place of prostitution;
(b) Encourages, induces, or otherwise purposely causes another to become or remain a prostitute;
(c) Transports an individual into or within this state with a purpose to promote that individual’s engaging in prostitution or procuring or paying for transportation with that purpose;
(d) Not being a child or legal dependent of a prostitute, shares the proceeds of prostitution with a prostitute, or an individual the actor believes to be a prostitute, pursuant to their understanding that the actor is to share therein; or
(e) Owns controls, manages, supervised, or otherwise keeps, alone or in association with another, a place of prostitution or a business where prostitution occurs or is arranged, encouraged, supported, or promoted.”

Gray area

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Since Moss came prepared with an illegal business plan, it is hard to say he didn’t know what he was getting into unless his inappropriate business endeavor was all a ruse to impress the ladies. Regardless, his actions will be making a lasting impression; a negative one when he faces a judge in court. While Moss’s case could paint a pretty clear picture of how horrible his remarks and behavior was – he was not the one placing the ad; he was merely responding to it. If the ad hadn’t been there, would he have still made the illegal choices that he did? This is a common question that comes up following prostitution stings. Are stings a way to catch criminals or are they a non-biased trap to catch anyone who may happen by? Some otherwise innocent individuals caught in the frequent prostitution stings throughout the state often fall into a gray area where you wonder if they had actually planned to commit a crime or just reacted to a setting they were placed in. This gray area where one may question someone’s criminal intentions that often occurs with stings can be known as entrapment.

Opportunity or entrapment

Entrapment is defined Utah Code 76-2-303 as “. . . when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it.” While many arrested during prostitution stings may have been “. . . merely afford[ed] . . . an opportunity to commit an offense”, there is always a concern others were arrested solely based on the enticement of the officers. Anyone facing charges following a prostitution sting whether or not they may have been the victim of entrapment are encouraged to seek legal counsel immediately.

Utah Man Soliciting Sex Entrapped in Felony Charges for Conspiracy to Commit Child Rape

A southern Utah man who was soliciting sex online was instead entrapped in felony charges for conspiracy to commit child rape.

Married man looking for fun

Entrapped by Police

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22 year old Taylor John Hummel of St. George Utah was arrested after he posted an ad on a website known for sexual solicitation and stated he was married and looking for “discreet fun”. Law enforcement officers who were screening the website saw the ad and responded to Hummel. The undercover officer told Hummel that she would trade sex for money and then offered her fictional teenager daughter for an addition cost. Although hesitant, Hummel discussed the details then agreed to the arrangements and set up a time to meet.

Not what he wanted

Once Hummel arrived at the meeting place, he handed the undercover officer enough money for sexual favors from her but he did not exchange money for her daughter. Hummel was apparently uncomfortable with the idea of having sexual relations with the teenager. Hummel was then arrested for a class B misdemeanor sexual solicitation for paying the undercover agent for sex. Surprisingly, he was also charged with first-degree felony conspiracy to commit child rape for briefly agreeing to the undercover agent’s offer of sexual favors from the teen.

Entrapped in felony charges

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Although Hummel admitted to soliciting sex online, he did not state in his ad nor ask the undercover agent to have sexual relations with a minor. The undercover officer was the one who offered the fictional teen to Hummel, who otherwise may have never considered his ad would reach a juvenile. For this reason, it appears Hummel may have been entrapped by officers who were looking for a bigger fish to fry and instead made something more out of a guy looking for a hookup.

Entrapment

Claiming entrapment can be tricky. Utah Code 76-2-303 states “Entrapment occurs when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it.” However the same section also notes “Conduct merely affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.”

Legal counsel

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So did the officer convince Hummel to agree to sex with a minor or did they merely offer Hummel the opportunity which he agreed to? Does the fact that he didn’t want to go through with it show that if not offered, he probably would not have ever asked? All individuals facing criminal charges should have a professional criminal defense attorney working their case. When cases involve potential entrapment, it is vital to have a knowledgeable defense on your side to ensure that everything is handled fairly.

Provo Utah Man Arrested for Enticing a Minor Online

A 25 year old Provo Utah man was arrested for enticing a minor online after a 13 year old girl he was talking to turned out to be an undercover police officer.

Sex sting

Enticing a Minor

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Nicholas Randy Lewis, a married student at BYU in Provo Utah was arrested earlier this month for enticing a minor after he was caught in a sex sting set up by Utah Valley Special Victim’s Task Force to catch online predators. Lewis had been chatting inappropriately for six months with someone who told him she was a 13 year old girl, when in fact it was an undercover officer. Lewis reportedly had sexually explicit conversations with the fake teen and sent her numerous pornographic photos of himself. Twice Lewis asked to meet the girl for sex and although he never actually showed up, he made the plans to engage in sexual activity with the minor which is known by Utah law as enticing a minor.

Enticing a minor

Utah Code 76-4-401 defines enticing a minor as “when the person knowingly uses the internet or text messaging to solicit, seduce, lure, or entice a minor, or to attempt to solicit, seduce, lure, or entice a minor, or another person that the actor believes to be a minor, to engage in any sexual activity which is a violation of state criminal law. “ Lewis is now facing multiple felonies for:

Dealing material harmful to a minor. This is in reference to the pornographic images he sent to someone he thought was a minor.

Enticing a minor since Lewis made the plans to engage in sexual activities with the teen, regardless of whether or not he ever intended to show up.

His inappropriate conversations online that he thought were secretive may have cost him years of freedom as well as thousands in fines.

Conversation starter

Photo by: Howard Kang

Photo by: Howard Kang

Whenever someone is arrested through a sting, there are several questions that come up. Utah Code 76-4-401 states, enticing a minor happens “when the person knowingly uses the internet or text messaging to initiate contact with a minor.” So who originally initiated the online conversation between Lewis and the fictitious teenage girl? Did he intentionally locate and make contact with someone he believed was a minor or did he just continue chatting with someone that sought him out first? Would he have had the same conversations with someone who was of legal age? Is the 25 year old married student with no criminal record really a predator or just someone who talked inappropriately to the wrong person?

Entrapment?

According to Utah law, an officer cannot induce or persuade a person to commit a crime, especially if they would not have been likely to do so anyway. Utah Code 76-2-303 states that “entrapment occurs when a peace officer or a person directed by or acting in cooperation with the officer induces the commission of an offense in order to obtain evidence of the commission for prosecution by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it. “ However, under Utah law, giving someone the chance to commit a crime or as 76-2-303 calls “affording a person an opportunity to commit an offense does not constitute entrapment.”

Be represented

Photo by: frankieleon

Photo by: frankieleon

For those facing charges such as enticing a minor, contact an attorney immediately especially when the charges came about following a sting set up by police. The penalties for enticing a minor can range from a class C misdemeanor to a second degree felony, depending on what sexual activity the person was trying to entice the minor to engage in. With anywhere from three months to 15 years in jail on the line and the questionable gray area regarding police entrapment, it is recommended to speak with a criminal defense attorney about the case to ensure that the defendant is being treated fairly and that their rights are not being violated.