Justices reverse COA, reinstate ex-teacher’s attempted seduction charge

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Editor's note: This story contains the corrected Supreme Court opinion.

A former high school teacher must face a charge of attempted child seduction for Facebook communications propositioning a 16-year-old student for sex, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, reinstating a case the Court of Appeals had dismissed.

The issue before the court was whether former Knox High School teacher Robert Corbin took a “substantial step” toward committing the crime when he urged the student to sneak out of the house to “take care of” his sexual arousal, among other things.    

In Robert Corbin v. State of Indiana,  75S03-1401-CR-13, justices in a three-page, per curiam opinion rejected the Court of Appeals’ holding that reversed the trial court and dismissed the charge. The COA applied Ward v. State, 528 N.E.2d 52 (Ind. 1988).  

“The Court of Appeals concluded that as a matter of law, the internet solicitations did not constitute a substantial step toward the crime of child seduction because Corbin’s requests were simply an invitation to the student, not the required ‘urging’ or ‘persuasion’ discussed in Ward, and in any event because the requests were not made in the student’s presence, the student was never in a position to submit to the solicitation so the requests related to future conduct, not the immediate commission of a crime,” justices wrote.

“We noted, as stated in the Court of Appeals opinion, that what constitutes an attempt offense in the area of sex offenses against children can, on occasion, be determined as a matter of law, but often, the question involves subtle distinctions in behavior and the nuance of the context in which the behavior occurs. One difference between Corbin’s case and most of the cases cited by the Court of Appeals, including Ward, is those cases involved review of a conviction after all of the evidence had been presented.

“Corbin’s case, by contrast, is in the charging stage, when other evidence, if there is any, is not yet known. And for the most part, the charges against him reflect the language of the seduction statute. At this point, we simply cannot say that dismissal is required and we conclude there are enough unanswered questions to affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss,” the court held.

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