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No Brady violation in sex-sting case

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A defendant failed to show there was a Brady violation in his trial for enticing who he thought was an underage girl he met on the internet, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today. Even though the government didn't know two other "underage girls" he chatted with were really police officers involved in the same sting at the time he was indicted, that information isn't enough to grant a new trial under the plain error standard.

In United States of America v. James Daniel, No. 08-2672, James Daniel was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. Section 2442(b), which forbids knowingly persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing an individual under 18 to engage in criminal sexual activity. Daniel communicated with Amanda_13, whom he believed was only 13, and convinced "her" to meet him at a park to have sex.

At trial, evidence was admitted of online conversations Daniel had with two other supposed underage girls - daisy13_Indiana and blonddt. The government didn't know until the sentencing phase that daisy13_Indiana was a police officer. It wasn't until the Circuit Court reviewed the case did the government learn blonddt was also a police officer. The 7th Circuit Court had dealt with another defendant caught in the same sting operation who communicated with blonddt.

Daniel claimed the government's failure to disclose the identity of these two screen names during his trial violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and he should be granted a new trial.

But the Circuit Court found this information wasn't material to his trial. The identity of these screen names doesn't impeach Secret Service agent James Kimes' testimony regarding his examination of Daniel's computer, wrote Judge Diane Wood.

"All that Daniel could have shown, had the government informed him that daisy13_Indiana and blonddt were names operated by police officers, was that Kimes did not know much about the undercover operation," she wrote. "But Kimes never said that he did know about it, and so this information would not have impeached his testimony."

Daniel also failed to prove his entrapment argument because the chats with these two screen names happened after he already initiated the chats with Amanda_13, who turned out to be a police officer.

In addition, the identity of these two screen names doesn't affect the admissibility of the conversations under Rule 404(b) or their relevance, the judge wrote. They were admitted to show Daniel's state of mind and what mattered was he believed he was chatting about sex with minor girls. There's also no reasonable probability that a jury would have acquitted him because the evidence overwhelmingly showed he used the Internet to persuade Amanda_13 to meet him to have sex.

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