Los Angeles, CA criminal defense attorney Karen L. Goldstein talks about the trends she sees in the prosecution of internet sex crimes.
Karen is the recipient of Trial Attorney of the Year 2020, The Jerry Giesler Memorial Award, by the Criminal Courts Bar Association (CCBA).
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So let me start off by saying that in modern-day sex crimes prosecutions, the majority is being focused on internet-based crimes, because the internet’s ubiquitous. People are meeting people over the internet and social media, so because of that, I’m seeing all of these pretty sympathetic cases that involve – could be teenagers and maybe one person’s over 18 and one person’s a minor and what we’ll just nicely call lewd communications. And so I had a case, and just the most sympathetic client you can imagine. A 19-year-old kid in the military, no criminal history, clearly not some kind of sex offender or predator, but made some pretty poor choices, as one does when one’s 19 sometimes, and found himself chatting with somebody who turned out to be underage. Now, it was questionable whether he had known that. She wasn’t very underage, but she was under the age of 18. He also had the unfortunate luck of getting prosecuted in Ventura County, which is known to be one of the most conservative counties for any type of criminal defense in California. I was told up front by all the regulars who practice there, “He’s going to go to prison. He’s gonna have to register as a sex offender, and he’s going to have to give up his military career,” and I said, “Not on my watch.”
It took a very long time. I got to a point where I turned to the client, and I said, “I don’t know if we’re gonna do better than this,” because what he wanted was no registration, a dismissal of the charge, and if he plead to anything, meaning took a plea bargain, that he would be able to get back into the military, so three things that were very difficult to accomplish. And I did all of my usual things. I put together a detailed mitigation packet, showed the prosecutor where the case was weak, why the accuser wasn’t credible, why my client was so credible. I went in and spoke to the prosecutor. I tried to get the judge involved. I got a psychological evaluation. Nothing was working. It was stuck at felony prison time, registration.
And then finally – as I said, I can be relentless – I did not give up. I got one last meeting, where I talked face-to-face with the prosecutor, and she finally agreed that what I was telling her made sense. The accuser wasn’t credible, and my client deserved a chance at a minimum. And then she went to her boss and got the felony dismissed, the registration dismissed, and the prison time did not happen. So my client now does have a misdemeanor. It’s a non-registration. He did not go to prison. He is not registering, and he will be going back to the military at the end of the day, at the end of his probation period.