Judge declares Texas' online solicitation statute unconstitutional

By Cathy Hernandez - Reporter

HOUSTON - A district judge in Montgomery County declared the online solicitation of a minor law unconstitutional on Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Daniel Paquette, 35, thought he met a teenage girl on Craigslist last summer.

"The defendant arranged to meet a girl he thought was 14 years of age, and was gonna pay her $50 for sexual intercourse," said Assistant District Attorney Phil Grant.

Grant said Paquette drove from Kingwood to Porter with the cash and a condom to meet her. Paquette met undercover officers instead. His arrest was part of a sting, that included 20 others. But? on Wednesday, a judge dismissed Paquette's indictment.

"The statue does snare the guilty. But it also snares the innocent," said defense attorney Steve Jackson.

Jackson said the current law is too vague and infringes on the right to freedom of speech. He said it doesn't protect someone's thoughts or people who engage in sexual fantasy where their partner may only pretend to be a child.

"There's no defense of fantasy. There's no defense that I really didn't intend to come home and really doing that," said Jackson.

Judge Kelly Case agreed.

But, prosecutors said freedom of speech isn't involved in this case.

"Obviously, this is not just innocently chatting online. This is arranging a meet for an illegal sexual encounter with a minor," said Grant. "That is not free speech."

Grant said he plans to appeal the decision and all other similar cases in Case's court.

"As long as Judge Case is finding that this statue is unconstitutional, we'll be handling a lot of business in the appellate courts," Grant said.

In this legislative session, lawmakers agreed the law was too vague and revised it. The new version doesn't go into effect until Sept. 1.

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