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Federal appeals panel upholds law prohibiting use of Internet to coax minors into sex

By David Hudson
The Freedom Forum Online

A federal law that makes it a crime to use the Internet to try to persuade minors to have sex does not violate the First Amendment, a federal appeals court panel has ruled.

Robert Owen Bailey was charged and convicted under 18 U.S.C. d 2242(b) which provides:

"Whoever, using any facility or means of interstate or foreign commerce ... knowingly persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any individual who has not attained the age of 18 years to engage in prostitution or any sexual act for which any person may be criminally prosecuted, or attempts to do so, shall be fined ... ."

Bailey appealed his conviction in federal court, contending that the law violates the First Amendment by punishing mere sexual banter on the Internet.

On appeal, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Bailey's conviction and rejected his First Amendment arguments in U.S. v. Bailey.

Bailey had argued that the U.S. Supreme Court's 1997 decision in Reno v. ACLU supported his argument that the federal law he was convicted under violated his free-speech rights.

In Reno v. ACLU, the high court struck down two provisions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which punishing the knowing sending of indecent or patently offensive online communications. The high court ruled that the law, while designed to protect children from harmful messages, infringed on adult free-speech rights.

The 6th Circuit panel easily distinguished Bailey's case, writing: "The statute only applies to those who 'knowingly' persuade, or entice, or attempt to persuade or entice, minors. Thus, it only affects those who intend to target minors: it does not punish those who inadvertently speak with minors or who, as in Reno, post messages for all internet users, either adults or children, to seek out and read at their discretion."

The panel concluded in its Oct. 3 opinion that "the Defendant simply does not have a First Amendment right to attempt to persuade minors to engage in illegal sex acts."

Calls to attorneys for Bailey and the government were not returned.


N.Y. high court upholds state's Internet porn law

Man convicted under law had argued that it was overbroad, vague and unconstitutional because it restricted free speech and interstate trade. 04.12.00

California appeals court upholds Internet harmful-to-minors law
Judges determine that law 'targets only those who prey on minors to seduce them.' 08.11.00

N.D. Internet-luring law ruled constitutional
State high court says statute, which targets Web users who troll for underage sex partners, is intended to prohibit certain sexual conduct, not suppress speech. 12.03.03

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