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COA tackles 2 issues of first impression

March 28, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals addressed two new issues in a child solicitation and prostitution case regarding authenticating emails and text messages and whether the defendant’s actions actually constituted a crime.

Matthew Pavlovich appealed his convictions of Class D felony child solicitation and Class A misdemeanor patronizing a prostitute. The charges stem from his interactions with S.Y. and her now-husband and “pimp,” Bradford Pugh. Pavlovich communicated with S.Y. through the email “golfnutmi” and a cell phone with the last four digits 2662.

When he met with S.Y. to have sex with her, S.Y. mentioned she had a 9-year-old sister, P.Y. Pavlovich suggested S.Y. and P.Y. perform sex acts on each other. S.Y. and Pugh went to police with the texts and emails Pavlovich sent regarding P.Y. He was eventually charged and convicted based on those communications.

His appeal, Matthew Pavlovich v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1308-CR-715, brings up two issues of first impression. The first is the admissibility of text or email messages where there is a complete lack of technological or documentary evidence linking a party to a particular cell number or email address. The phone Pavlovich used is registered under a different name to an address in the middle of the highway. There is also no evidence connecting Pavlovich to the email address except for when he gave it to S.Y.

The appellate court ruled the circumstantial evidence is sufficient to authenticate the texts and emails as being authorized by Pavlovich, so they were properly introduced into evidence and authenticated as being written by him. S.Y. testified that Pavlovich was the man who hired her and had sex with her on the date, she recognized his voice and that they communicated through that number and email.

Pavlovich was entitled to – and did – argue that there was insufficient evidence that he wrote the messages, but the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting them into evidence.

The case also presents for the first time the question of whether it is a crime under Ind. Code 35-42-4-6(b), the statute governing child solicitation, for a person to direct communications to an intermediary who the person believes is passing the communications on to the child or is acting on behalf of the child.

“Certainly communicating through an intermediary, as was done here, satisfies the ‘any other means’ method of child solicitation,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote in the majority opinion.

The majority affirmed his convictions.

Judge Michael Barnes dissented on this issue, disagreeing that Pavlovich completed the act of child solicitation under the circumstances of this case. He pointed out that he never directly communicated with P.Y., instead, urged S.Y. to urge P.Y. to engage in a sex act with her, but S.Y. never did so. As such, no illicit communications ever reached a child under 14 years old or a person pretending to be a child, so the child solicitation conviction must be reversed.

 

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