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Judges differ in interpretation of earlier ruling

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeals judges disagreed today as to whether a man's convictions of attempted sexual misconduct with a minor and attempted dissemination of matter harmful to minors should be reversed because his intended victim was actually a police officer conducting an online sting operation.

In Randy Gibbs v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0712-CR-1017, the majority determined in light of Alpin v. State, 889 N.E.2d 882 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008), two of Randy Gibbs' convictions should be overturned. Gibbs had communicated over the Internet with someone that he believed to be a 15-year-old girl, had graphic sexual conversations with her, sent her illicit pictures, and then arranged to meet her at an apartment complex. Gibbs was arrested at the apartment complex and had brought rope and condoms with him.

The majority affirmed his conviction of child solicitation, but reversed his other two convictions based on the wording of the statutes for those crimes. The majority disagreed with the state's argument that Alpin was decided incorrectly, noting that it had to be decided correctly since the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer. Citing Alpin, the majority noted that to be convicted of child solicitation, a person has to "believe" the victim is a child whereas to be convicted of sexual misconduct with a child requires the victim to be a child.

As a result of the ruling in Alpin, the majority in the instant case concluded that attempted sexual misconduct with a minor also requires the intended victim be a child. They noted that if the General Assembly wanted to penalize defendants for attempting to commit the offense when the victim is actually an adult the defendant believed to be a minor, it could have chosen similar language as used in the child solicitation statute, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik.

Judge Melissa May dissented, finding the attempt statute to be applicable in this case, which provides that impossibility is not a defense. Gibbs intended to have sex with a minor and did all he could to complete the offense, but failed because it wasn't possible under the circumstances since he was part of an online sting operation, wrote the judge. Judge May doesn't believe the General Assembly would have intended to prevent prosecution under the sexual misconduct with a minor statute when the defendant erroneously believed the victim was a minor. She would affirm Gibbs' convictions, finding sufficient facts to support each of them.

Judge May also noted that the Supreme Court's denial of transfer has no precedential value or legal effect other than to terminate the litigation between the parties and doesn't imply the high court's agreement with the Court of Appeals in a ruling.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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