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Teacher’s suggestive messages to student were ‘immoral’ but not a crime, COA rules

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Although the Indiana Court of Appeals found a high school teacher’s behavior toward a 16-year-old female student to be “deplorable and immoral,” it overturned his convictions because his actions were not criminal under statute.

The Court of Appeals reversed the denial of Robert Corbin’s motion to dismiss the two counts of attempted child seduction filed against him. It also remanded with instructions to grant the motion.

“The behavior alleged in the charging information is deplorable and immoral, and our decision today should not be read in any way to condone Corbin’s conduct,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court in Robert Corbin v. State of Indiana, 75A03-1209-CR-402. “Yet, we are bound to narrowly construe criminal statutes in order to protect the constitutional rights of all our citizens. “

Corbin was charged after the student’s family members discovered explicit messages he sent to her Facebook account. The first count was for the messages he sent to her asking that she sexually satisfy him and sneak out of her house so he could come and pick her up. The second count was for the messages asking her that she send him explicit photographs.

On appeal, Corbin claimed the evidence was insufficient to support the charges.

The Court of Appeals examined Indiana Code 35-42-4-7 and pointed out that attempted child seduction requires the individual to engage in conduct that “constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of the crime.”

Noting that determining what comprises a “substantial step” is difficult, the Court of Appeals turned to Ward v. State, 528 N.E.2d 52, 55 (Ind. 1988). This case outlined a two-part test to apply when considering whether a solicitation constitutes an attempt.

Consequently, the Court of Appeals found Corbin’s requests were not solicitations under Ward because he was not in a position to immediately commit the crime. He sent the messages over the Internet and never acted upon them.

In regards to the charges in count two, the COA ruled that even though Corbin’s request for photographs was “extremely disturbing and morally reprehensible,” it was not criminal conduct as defined by the “plain language” of the statute.  

 

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