Sexual exploitation of a minor is a relatively broad offense under Tennessee law which can include a variety of different conduct. It can be committed when a person eighteen years of age or older somehow causes a minor, or a law enforcement officer posing as a minor, to engage in sexual activity observed by the defendant or another person, or displays sexual activity to that minor. ‘Sexual activity’ itself has a broad definition under Tennessee statute, and can include various forms of sex or even just ‘patently offense’ or ‘lascivious’ exhibition. Soliciting such activity is a crime even if the conduct is not ultimately performed. In the recent Tennessee case of State v. Ritchie, E2013-01849-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Crim.App. 5-19-2014), the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed convictions for soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor where the defendant offered a child money to view the child in her underwear and without her bra.
In the Ritchie case, the testimony from the victim was that the defendant, who was dating the victim’s mother, often gave her money for posing in front of him in just her underwear. On two different occasions, she also removed her bra. She testified he offered her additional money to pose nude, but that she declined to pose completely nude. The victim’s mother also testified the defendant purchased thongs and see-through underwear for the victim, which the victim’s mother did not believe to be at all appropriate for a child.
The victim eventually told her mother about the defendant giving her money to see her in her underwear. When confronted with the allegations, the defendant initially denied them and then said that the victim had ‘started it.’
The defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal, arguing, among other things, that the evidence did not prove the defendant intentionally caused the victim to pose without her bra. The Court of Criminal Appeals found the evidence sufficient, noting that a jury may infer intent from the surrounding facts and circumstances.
Though the defendant was only convicted of solicitation in this case, the evidence likely would have also been sufficient to sustain convictions for sexual exploitation of a minor, as the testimony would support a conclusion that there was actual lascivious exhibition in addition to the request for the exhibition, and that the defendant intended to cause the lascivious exhibition.
For more information on what may be sufficient evident to prove a particular crime, contact Hindman & Associates.