Articles Posted in Sexual Child Abuse

“Moving forward, our office will continue to pursue stiff penalties [for child pornography cases] …”

That was the strong message delivered by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy on November 20, 2023, following the sentencing of Patrick Wojahn. Wojahn, the former mayor of College Park, pled guilty to 140 counts of possession and/or distribution of child pornography and was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. The prosecutor assigned to that case explained during the sentencing hearing, “The reason why he pled to 140 counts was because our office is not going to take a position as to which child deserves to have their rape—that was memorialized on video and forever lives on the internet—pled to.”

So, you can imagine the angst my client felt when he learned on December 7, 2023—just a little over two weeks after the Wojahn sentencing—that he had been indicted with the same criminal offenses, in the same jurisdiction, by the same prosecutor. Like Wojahn, my client had no prior criminal record, was well-educated, a devoted family man with a good paying job. Yet here he was facing the possibility of decades in prison.

As a full time Maryland Criminal Lawyer and former Baltimore County Prosecutor practicing exclusively in the criminal arena for almost 20 years, I have handled more Sex Offense Cases (on both sides of the aisle) than I can recall. Recently we have seen an uptick in the number of Craig’s List initiated Solicitation of Minors for Sex cases being charged, particularly in Baltimore County. Most of us are familiar with this type of sting operation from the Chris Hanson “To Catch a Predator Series” on MSNBC. These are extremely serious cases that are prosecuted aggressively by both the State and Federal authorities. It is imperative that a person charged in one of these stings immediately retain the most experienced, aggressive and influential attorneys they can find.

My law partner former Federal Prosecutor Andrew C. White who directed the Child Sex Offense of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for over 7 years, and I have teamed up to successfully resolve dozens of these cases over the past decade or so when we first starting seeing these sting operations. It is imperative to have someone very experienced and influential in the federal system as there is dual federal and state jurisdiction to prosecute these cases. We were hired by someone caught up in one of these investigations just last week. I won’t go into the specifics of any of the cases for obvious privacy reasons, but here is an outline of a typical case such as this.
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Maryland Criminal Attorney– This is a legal question that I am asked quite often, mostly by young men. The answer to the question is contained in the trite but partly true expression that “15 will get you 20”. The general rule is that the age at which a young person can legally consent to engage in vaginal intercourse, sexual contact, or a sexual act with another person is 16 years. There is an exception to this rule if the older participant (usually the man) is less than four years older than the girl. In other words, it may or may not be illegal for an 19 year old to have sex with a 15 year old or a 18 year old to have sex with a 14 year old depending upon when the participants birthdays occur. A violation of the statute only occurs if the participants’ birthdays are four years or more apart. (Note: under the sexual child abuse statute it is unlawful to engage in sexual conduct with a child under the age of 18 if the adult has temporary or permanent custody of the child. This subject is covered in greater detail in another blog).

The unusual part of the statute, as compared to most criminal statutes, is that it creates a strict liability standard. What I mean by that is that it doesn’t matter whether the child looked older than she really was, whether she told the offender that she was older than she really was or whether he reasonably believed she was older than she really was. The law states that if an adult 4 years or more older than the child under 16, engages in sexual conduct with that child, he is guilty – period. There is no knowledge or intent requirement under this statute hence the standard – strict liability.
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In 1994 New Jersey became one of the first states to implement sex offender registry and notification laws. New Jersey enacted what became known as “Megan’s Law,” or the Sex Offender Registration Act, in response to a brutal sexual assault and murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka by a convicted sex offender who lived across the street from her. Congress responded that same year by implementing their version of Megan’s Law, called the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Program (“Wetterling Act”). Pub.L.No. 103-322, 108 Stat. 1796 (1994), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 14071 (2000). The Wetterling Act, drafted to protect the public from violent sex offenses committed by repeat offenders, developed guidelines for registration, and more recently, community notification, and classified its registrants as “sexually violent offenders” or “sexually violent predators,” the latter of which was forced to comply with heightened registration requirements. Id. at § 14071. See generally, 61 Md. Law Rev. 739, 722-45 (2002). The Wetterling Act also mandates that each State may decide to what extent that information will be made available to the public. See H.R. Rep. No. 104-55 (1986).

The Maryland General Assembly soon followed, motivated both by appalling incidents within its own borders, as well as the federal funding incentive for compliance with the Wetterling Act, and enacted its first sexual offender registration in 1995. These laws were aimed at responding to the high recidivism and danger that sex offenders posed on its citizens. see Md. Fisc. Note, 2005 Sess. H.B. 770; see generally, 61 Md. Law Rev. at 742. Maryland has since amended its laws to maintain compliance with the Federal Act. Sexual offenders are required to register with the Crimes Against Children and Sexual Offender Registry for either a minimum term of ten years, or life, depending on the offense. § 14071. Maryland’s registry is operated by the Sexual Offender Registry unit of Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”).

Maryland has four categories of persons convicted of sexual offenses: 1) a child sexual offender; 2) an offender; 3) a sexually violent offender; and 4) a sexually violent predator. The first two, child sexual offender, and offender, pertain to a conviction of sexual offense in the fourth degree. The Maryland legislature left the judge with discretion to determine whether persons convicted of this offense should be required to register as a sex offender. §§11-701. Fourth-degree sexual offense is a multipurpose offense, meaning that it is an offense having alternative elements and may be committed in more than one way, any one of which is sufficient for conviction. See § 3-308; Cortex v. State, 656 A.2d 360, 104 (MD 1995). This implies that while some defendants who have been convicted of the sexual offense in the fourth degree have committed a crime in such a way as to warrant registry, this Court can exercise its discretion to determine others convicted need not register.
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Recent reporting is a good example of both the increasing severity of federal sentences as well as an increased emphasis on federal prosecutions for those who are caught possessing and/or trading in child pornography. As a former Assistant United State’s Attorney for the District of Maryland I have both prosecuted as well as defended hundreds of cases involving child pornography.
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Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney with experience in cases of sexual child abuse will be needed by defendant arrested for sexual child abuse yesterday in Anne Arundel County Maryland.,0,7442671.story
Experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney can help craft a defense for father of 15 year old child whom he is accused of abusing sexually. Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney and help mitigate or reduce the possible sentence this defendant may serve even in the event that there is no substantive defense.

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