Reporters’ pretending to be teens on the Internet to lure adults is insufficient to justify arrests, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled yesterday, reports Capitol Media Services. In a unanimous decision, the justices said people lured to meet with what they think are teen girls can’t be charged if it turns out the person doing the luring is not a minor. The court concluded charging someone with seeking out a minor for sexual purposes requires an actual minor. The only exception is if the person doing the luring is a police officer.
The ruling does not bar television stations from what has become a popular tactic, especially during rating periods. Brad Stone, at KVOA-TV 4 in Tucson, said a story done by his station in conjunction with Perverted Justice, a volunteer organization dedicated to outing online predators, got one of the biggest reactions ever from parents who did not realize the kind of people their children could meet on the Internet. “Parents were afraid of leaving their kids alone,” he said. A Phoenix prosecutor said the man whose indictment was tossed out by the court ruling will be charged with attempted luring, a crime the court suggested could be prosecuted without a real teenage victim. The case stems from actions three years ago by a Phoenix television reporter who, pretending to be a 13-year-old girl, engaged in conversations in “chat rooms” as part of an investigation to show how the Internet can be used to seek out minors for sex.