In U.S. v. Lanzon, No. 09-14535 (May 4, 2011), the Court affirmed a conviction for attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2422(b).
The Court rejected Lanzon’s argument that he could not be convicted of attempt, because § 2422(b) required a State predicate crime, and his predicate crime was a Florida statute that required a completed sex offense, not just an attempt. The Court noted that the federal statute merely required an “attempt, and federal, not state, law governed this element of the offense. Moreover, the facts were sufficient to show an attempt: Lanzon conducted sexually explicit online conversations regarding a 14-year old, drove several miles to an arranged meeting place, and carried condoms and mint lubricant in his truck.
The Court also rejected Lanzon’s Fourth Amendment challenge to the warrantless seizure of materials from his truck, after his arrest. The Court found that the police had probable cause to believe the truck contained evidence of a crime.
The Court rejected Lanzon’s challenge to the police’s failure to preserve computer evidence of his communications with undercover officers. The Court noted that Lanzon failed to show “bad faith” on the part of the detective who transferred the instant message conversations to Word documents. The Court also rejected Lanzon’s challenge to the authentication of the messages, crediting the detective’s testimony that he participated in the online chats, and accurately copied the transcripts of the conversations. Moreover, the use of copied transcripts did not violate the best evidence rule, because the originals were not destroyed in bad faith. Finally, the Court found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to give a “spoliation of evidence” jury instruction. Again, the Court noted the absence of bad faith in the detective’s actions.