Can What I Said Years ago be Used Against Me in a Sex Crimes Case?
A sex crimes charge can permanently brand the accused as a “sex offender” in the eyes of the law and the public. One factor to keep in mind is not all sex crimes involve physical assault. For example, if a person “engages in a sexual act” in the “presence or virtual presence” of a child, he or she may be charged with “sexual exploitation.” This is a misdemeanor for a first offense but a felony if the defendant has any prior sex crimes conviction.Ex-Wife's Testimony Used to Convict Defendant
In pursuing a sex crimes case, Illinois prosecutors will not hesitate to introduce any evidence designed to make the defendant look as bad as possible to the jury. Judges are supposed to keep unduly “prejudicial” evidence away from the jury, but prosecutors still have quite a bit of leeway in making their case. This includes allowing evidence that supposedly proves a defendant's motive or intent.
Consider a recent criminal case from northern Illinois. The state accused the defendant of sexual exploitation of a child. Specifically, prosecutors said the defendant “engaged in oral sex and sexual intercourse with his girlfriend in front of his son in an attempt to teach his son about sex.”
At trial, prosecutors called the defendant's ex-wife as a witness. She testified that while still married to the defendant several years earlier, he proposed “demonstrating” sex for their son in lieu of having a more traditional “sex talk” with him at the appropriate age. The defendant argued this testimony should not be admitted because it was “irrelevant” and would unduly prejudice the jury against him.
The judge disagreed and let the jury hear the testimony. The jury convicted the defendant of two counts of sexual exploitation. The judge sentenced the defendant to probation, which under Illinois law still requires him to register as a sex offender for the next 10 years.
The defendant appealed, citing what he considered the improper admission of his ex-wife's testimony. Still, the Illinois Third District Appellate Court found nothing wrong and affirmed the conviction. The court explained that even though several years had passed between the conversations described by the ex-wife and the events leading to the defendant's arrest, her testimony was still relevant to establishing the defendant's “mental state.”
Basically, the court said the testimony was admissible largely because it was limited to the “factual similarities” between what the defendant proposed to his ex-wife–having intercourse in front of their son to teach him about sex, and what he was actually accused of doing. Had the ex-wife simply testified that the defendant was a “bad person deserving punishment,” that would not have been admissible.Have You Been Charged With an Illinois Sex Crime?
The defendant also argued, unsuccessfully, that it was unfair to use his prior speech (as opposed to conduct) against him. But, as the appeals court noted, treating speech as evidence is common in sex crimes cases, such as when someone solicits another person for sex (i.e., prostitution).
The lesson here is that everything matters when it comes to a sex crime charge. Even statements made years earlier to a loved one may one day turn you into a criminal. This is why, if you are facing a sex crimes charge, it is imperative you work with an experienced Orland Park criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights. Contact the Fotopoulos Law Office if you need immediate legal assistance.