In 2013, a then-35-year-old mother of two met a man through an online dating service. According to NBC News, the man said he was an Englishman and worked for the British Ministry of Defense. However, as the New Jersey woman later learned, the man had lied. Despite impregnating her and proposing to her, the man slowly withdrew from their relationship.
After discovering the man is a known con artist, the woman chose to pursue sex crime charges. She claimed she did not consent to sex with the person the man actually was. As any criminal defense attorney in MN knows, defining sex without consent plays a large role in this sex crimes in Minnesota and across the country.
Minnesota law states that the age of consent is 16. Consent can be communicated in a number of ways, typically through verbal communication or saying “yes.” As a criminal defense attorney in MN would know, consent often plays a role in statutory charges, rape charges or cases involving alcohol. In this case, however, the deception that took place has muddied the waters regarding to whom the woman gave consent.
Arrest and charges
NBC News reports that the woman eventually learned the man’s real name after going through his wallet. That led to finding out about his deceived past wives and children and a criminal history of fraud, bigamy and child molestation.
The woman collected evidence and in March 2014, she went to the police. The man was soon arrested and charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer, deception and sexual assault. However, a jury chose not to indict him on sexual assault charges. Found guilty of the other two, the man was sentenced to serve three years.
Unsatisfied, with the results, the woman started working with a legislator to pass a law to expand what it means to have sex without consent. There are only several states that have laws that take fraud into account with sex crimes. The proposed legislation defines sexual assault by fraud, though critics argue that the terms regarding deception are currently too vague.
Minnesota laws do not cover sex by fraud, but they do lay out very clear consequences to anyone convicted of sexual assault. Defendants facing sex crime charges could be sentenced to a mandatory sex offender registry, prison time and fines. Beyond these punishments, it is important to note that any sex crime conviction can prevent a defendant from finding gainful employment and suitable housing.
As this case illustrates, the legal definition of giving consent before sex could change to encompass fraud. It is imperative for people to understand the state’s laws when it comes to consent. Anyone with questions regarding this matter should consult with a criminal defense attorney in MN.