Articles Posted in Solicitation

dsehnmrevfa-jeremy-paige-300x200The crime television niche has done much to highlight the intricacies of the solicitation of murder for hire. Like in all legal jurisdictions in the world, this is a serious crime in Chicago. It involves a certain amount of breach of trust by a loved one. For the media, it is a chance to revel in the wickedness of humanity, particularly if the story involves a faithless spouse who decides to put a lifelong companion to sleep. The rudiments of the crime are to be found in the provisions of 720 ILCS 5/8-1.2.

Needless to say, this is a serious crime that leads to the death penalty in some states. It is also an infectious crime in as far as more than one person may face charges. The one that commissioned the crime and the one that executed it are both charged together with any accomplices. That is not even accounting for the ensuing public scandal that is backed by sensational media reporting. For the ambitious defense lawyer, these crimes are a boon in as far as they are a fast track to fame.

The Implications of the Charge and Conviction

w33-zg-dnl4-rami-al-zayat-300x200The internet has not only opened up new avenues of communication, but has also created an entire category of crimes that require bespoke responses from the legislature. It is from that perspective that Chicago has come up with an internet solicitation legal framework which captures cyber sex crimes (720 ILCS 5/11-6.6 for enticement), among other things. On the other hand, the rules as they exist have left the door open for vigilantes and ingénues to entice otherwise ordinary citizens into compromising situations. The web sting has become an effective tool for police to target suspected pedophiles and other types of online offenders. More recently the phenomenon of revenge porn and unsolicited sexting has plagued legislatures across the globe. For the defense attorney, entrapment might be one of the critical issues that needs to be examined.

How the Law is Designed and Implemented

For a person to fall within the ambit of the law, they must knowingly engage in acts that amount to criminality, but the lines are blurred when undercover agents effectively encourage predisposed people to engage in illegal acts. At other times the law is the only way of being able to capture those sophisticated offenders who have a secretive network of contacts that are able to access some of the most offensive material that is currently available on the internet. Typically the offender is so unsympathetic that the public is unable to pay any attention to the civil liberties issues that may have been raised during his or her arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing. Ignorance and apathy remain key characteristics of the type of offender that engages with the internet in this way (see 720 ILCS 5/11-6 for indecent solicitation and online sexual solicitation rules). Some may consider it relatively harmless to surf certain pages while others are simply unaware that they are breaking specific laws in Chicago.

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This summer, police officers across the United States have been cracking down on prostitution-related offenses. Sting operations aimed at stopping the solicitation of prostitution have been executed across the country, including several in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports that a recent sting operation in Arlington Heights resulted in 14 men being charged with the crime of soliciting a sexual act. The Arlington Heights police carried out the sting by placing ads on the internet designating a specific time and hotel for interested people to meet. When individuals arrived at the designated hotel room a female undercover agent greeted them. Additional officers were waiting to arrest offenders who offered money to the undercover agent for sexual acts and to charge them with misdemeanor solicitation of a sexual act.

What Constitutes Entrapment?

Typically, entrapment occurs when a police officer induces someone to commit a crime that he or she would otherwise not have been disposed to commit. Entrapment can be used as a defense to a criminal charge, and is often alleged by defendants who have been charged with solicitation of a sexual act. In Illinois, the legal test for entrapment is contained in 720 ILCS 5/7-12 and prohibits a criminal defendant from being convicted if their illegal conduct was either incited or induced by a public agent in order to obtain evidence for the prosecution of that person. However, entrapment can not be used as a defense if the defendant was predisposed to commit the crime and the public agent simply provided them with the opportunity to commit it.

A Cook County inmate was charged with solicitation of murder for hire after allegedly trying to hire a hitman to murder a witness in his upcoming trial on charges of criminal damage to property, telephone harassment, and criminal trespass. The hitman was, in fact, an undercover officer.

Chicago Solicitation of Murder

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A person commits the crime of solicitation of murder if he “commands, encourages, or requests” another person to commit the offense of first degree murder. The defendant allegedly offered to pay the undercover officer $3,000 – $4,000 to have the witness killed.

A solicitation charge means that the underlying crime was never committed. Instead, the defendant was merely making the first step toward committing it. So determining whether the solicitation actually took place requires a thorough examination of the circumstances surrounding the commission of the alleged crime. Questions to be asked when crafting a defense to a charge of solicitation of murder include:

  • Whether the ‘hitman’ initiated the subject of solicitation with the defendant. If the hitman initiated the conversation, it would show that the defendant never considered the idea of murdering the witness until he was approached.
  • Whether conversations about the ‘hit’ were conducted in a public or private setting. If the conversations were in public, it makes it more likely that the defendant had no intention of following through, because there would be plenty of witnesses to his actions. Instead, he may have been engaging in talk to make himself look tough in jail, or wishful thinking.
  • Whether the defendant had the means or ability to pay the hitman. If he did not, it would tend to show that he once again was just fantasizing and did not intend for the hit to take place.
  • Whether the defendant ever said, “I want you to kill this witness.” Anything less than a specific statement of intent, such as, “It would really help my case if he died” or “God, I wish he were dead so he couldn’t testify!”, could be interpreted to be a case of wishful thinking.
  • Whether the defendant ever specifically requested that the witness be killed, or whether he expressed a general desire for him to “be taken care of.” This type of statement could be interpreted to mean that the defendant simply wanted someone to scare the witness out of testifying.

Chicago Entrapment Defense

In these types of cases, it may also be possible for the defendant to successfully argue that the police entrapped him. Entrapment is an affirmative defense, which means that the burden is on the defendant to prove that he was entrapped.

A defendant is not guilty of the charged offense if he can prove that his conduct was “incited or induced by a public officer or employee…for the purpose of obtaining evidence for the prosecution of that person.”

Proving entrapment requires more than simply providing evidence that the officer provided the defendant an opportunity to commit the crime. Courts assume that most citizens will be able to resist the temptation to break the law. Instead, entrapment requires that the officer engaged in such egregious behavior that a normal, law-abiding citizen would be enticed to commit the underlying crime.

For example, in a case such as this, it would not be enough for the defendant to prove that the officer approached him and brought up killing the witness. It may be enough, however, if the officer continually approached the defendant, despite repeated statements that he did not want the witness killed. This would show that the defendant was initially unwilling to break the law, but caved after police badgering.  Continue reading

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office participated in the National Day of Johns Arrests July 17 – August 3, along with 28 other law enforcement agencies in 14 states. The sweep, which was created by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in 2011, netted 14 men on charges of allegedly being involved in pimping, trafficking or promoting prostitution, while another 184 men were arrested and charged with attempted solicitation.

Chicago Solicitation of Prostitution Cases

Most cases of solicitation involve two consenting adults, neither of whom were kidnapped and forced into prostitution (known as sex trafficking), so it is generally a victimless crime. However, this is not a valid defense in court, because the law assumes that the prostitutes are vulnerable and that their circumstances – for example, a single mother with no other means of support – led them to accept payment for sex. Where leniency is often given to the prostitutes, it is not to the men arrested and charged with solicitation. And a conviction for solicitation is not a slap on the wrist – you face up to a year in jail and a $2,500, not to mention the social stigma.

Because of this automatic bias against those accused of soliciting sex, experienced defense counsel is vital in defending against charges of solicitation. Creating a defense requires examining the circumstances that led up to the arrest to determine whether the prosecution can prove that the defendant was, in fact, soliciting sex. Facts that would negate the prosecution’s claims and require the charges to be dropped or would lead to an acquittal in court may include:

  • Whether the defendant knew the woman was a prostitute (for example, if he thought he was just hitting on a stranger at the bar);
  • Whether any money exchanged hands. Even someone who sells sex for a living can decide to have sex with somebody for free simply because she finds him attractive;
  • Whether the defendant dropped all attempts to have sex with the woman once he realized she was a prostitute;
  • Whether the defendant was enticed or entrapped. These stings often result in overzealous, undercover police officers forcefully attempting to get the defendant to pay for sex in order to make an arrest; or
  • If the alleged solicitation occurred over the Internet, such as in response to a Craigslist ad, did the defendant actually intend to follow through; for example, perhaps he was engaging in some risqué flirting or indulging a fantasy, but never intended to meet the woman at the designated place and time.

If any of these factors are present, then there is a strong defense to be made that the charges should be dropped. Solicitation cases carry a social stigma even if the defendant is ultimately acquitted. Having the case tried in court opens up the possibility for it to be reported in the local newspaper, which can negatively impact your job and public reputation. Our goal in all solicitation cases is to get the charges dropped as quickly as possible to not only avoid potential jail time and fines, but to avoid possible damage to your reputation as well.  Continue reading