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Entrapment and Craigslist

In the case of Kevin Cantrell versus the State of Florida, Mr. Cantrell was convicted of traveling to meet a person whom he believed was a minor for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex and unlawfully using a computer service to solicit a person whom he believed was a minor in order to engage in illegal sex.  The facts of this case are as follows:

As part of a sting operation, a police officer with the Tallahassee Police Department posed as a minor and posted an ad in the “casual encounters” section of Craigslist in October 2011. The title read: “Hot Fresh Latina Lookn 4 1 Nighter—w4m [woman looking for man] (NE Tally).” The body of the ad read: “Want exactly what it says … thats all NSA [no strings attached] & after we forget we met. ONLY serious responses!”  Cantrell replied that he was interested, and this exchange followed between 10:03 and 10:25 p.m.:

OFFICER: u down wit a yunger Latina, hit me bk bb, lets tlk.

CANTRELL: for sure … pics?

OFFICER: u ain’t gettin a pic unless we decide we wanna meet up, I’m almost 15 and if u cool with that hit me bk and we can move to text.

Cantrell went out with some friends and when he returned, he responded at 2:41 a.m., “its cool bb,” and they began an exchange of text messages. Between 3:01 and 3:30 a.m., Cantrell told the person whom he believed was a minor what sexual activity he wanted to engage in with her, and she told him her parents were out of town and she had the house to herself, etc. They switched to telephones and Cantrell discovered that the minor was in the ninth grade in high school, that she had never engaged in sex before, and he agreed to bring condoms. He was arrested when he arrived at the house where he was to meet her at around 4:06 a.m.

Cantrell appealed his conviction and argued to the appellate court that the undercover officer’s action of lying about her age was entrapment because participation in the Craigslist site requires that a person acknowledge that he or she is 18 years of age or older by checking a box.  Thus, Cantrell’s conversation with the officer was legal when he entered into it, and the officer improperly induced him into interacting with a person whom Cantrell believed was a minor.

The court of appeals said that what the undercover officer did was not entrapment because:

1.  The officer’s lies did not create a substantial risk that an otherwise law-abiding citizen would commit a crime.

2.  A mere invitation under false pretenses is not entrapment.  Something more is needed, such as an undercover officer pleading with a person to commit a crime.

3.  After the undercover officer lied about her age, Cantrell enthusiastically participated in their discussions, he suggested that they meet as soon as possible, and he did not hesitate in the least.

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