¶1 Ronald Lindsey Hatchett appeals his two convictions for enticement of a minor, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss on the ground that he was entrapped. He argues that law enforcement "created a substantial risk that the offense of enticement would occur" when a special agent, posing as a 13-year-old boy, responded to Hatchett's advertisement in the Craigslist personals section. We disagree and affirm his convictions.
¶2 In anticipation of an upcoming visit to Utah, Hatchett posted an advertisement on Craigslist in the "men seeking men" personals section entitled "Dad looking for Son (Provo)." The advertisement read:
¶3 The advertisement caught the attention of a special agent (Special Agent) in the Utah Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Posing as "Cade,"
As the conversation continued, Hatchett asked whether Cade was "gay or just curious" and stated, "It would be fun to at least party" with Cade during his upcoming visit to Provo, immediately followed by the query, "You aren't a cop right?" Cade replied, "ya right r u dont want 2 get in trouble," which appeared to satisfy Hatchett's concern.
¶4 After they eventually exchanged phone numbers, Hatchett and Cade continued to communicate for several weeks. Hatchett initiated at least sixteen text-message and three telephone conversations with Cade, while Cade initiated two text-message conversations, one of which occurred on the morning of Hatchett's eventual arrest. Whenever Hatchett asked Cade what he wanted to do when they met up, Cade would respond evasively by stating that he did not know. Cade never proposed specific sex acts. Hatchett, on the other hand, repeatedly steered their conversations in a sexual direction. For example:
Hatchett also asked Cade to give measurements and send pictures of his genitals, which Cade did not do. Hatchett also offered to procure alcohol and drugs for their expected encounter.
¶5 Law enforcement arrested Hatchett when he arrived at the gas station in Provo where he and Cade had arranged to meet.
¶6 The State charged Hatchett with two counts of enticement of a minor and one count each of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia. Asserting the defense of entrapment, Hatchett moved the district court to dismiss the charges against him.
¶7 At the evidentiary hearing on the motion, Hatchett testified that "son" in the gay community "is used as a term saying that you're looking for someone that is younger than your age" but not necessarily a minor. He also testified that he "felt from the text messages that were being exchanged, that it wasn't a 14 year old talking to [him], it was somebody older." Specifically, Hatchett claimed that he believed he was speaking to an adult because Cade did not use the teenage "lingo" that Hatchett's own teenagers used and because Cade did not know much about video games. For that reason, Hatchett testified he engaged with Cade as a "fantasy" and went to the gas station "[j]ust to see if [Cade] was really ... under 18. If he was, [Hatchett] would have drove away."
¶8 The district court denied Hatchett's motion to dismiss. It determined that Special Agent's actions did not "induce the commission of the offense by methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by a reasonable person not otherwise ready to commit it." Specifically, the court found that after an advertisement entitled "Dad looking for Son (Provo)" "propos[ing] both a sexual encounter in Utah and use of illegal drugs" caught his attention, Special Agent "lawfully accessed Craigslist and created ... a fictitious and underage persona" to simply inquire, "`How young is too young.'" Special Agent then continued to respond to Hatchett after it became readily apparent that Hatchett was undeterred by the fact that Cade was "almost 14" years old. Following the initial conversation, Special Agent initiated contact with Hatchett only twice and "[a]t no time ... propose[d] specific sex acts." Based on these facts, the court concluded that "[a]t most, [Special] Agent afforded the mere opportunity to commit the offense."
¶9 A jury, necessarily rejecting Hatchett's entrapment defense and his claim that he believed Cade was an adult pretending to be a minor for "fantasy" purposes, convicted Hatchett of all crimes charged. Hatchett appeals.
ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶10 Hatchett argues that the district court erroneously denied his motion to dismiss on entrapment grounds.
¶11 The Utah Code defines the affirmative defense of entrapment as follows:
Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-303(1) (LexisNexis 2017). This definition "by its express terms incorporates [an] objective standard," State
¶12 "To prove the defense of entrapment, the evidence must be sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt that the defendant freely and voluntarily committed the offense." Id. (quotation simplified). This "is a highly fact-intensive" inquiry. id. (quotation simplified), which "depend[s] on an evaluation of the circumstances in each case," Taylor, 599 P.2d at 503. See State v. Haltom, 2005 UT App 348, ¶ 11, 121 P.3d 42 ("Utah has never recognized a per se rule of entrapment.") (quotation simplified). Examples of improper police conduct that constitute entrapment, "depending on an evaluation of the circumstances in each case," include inducement by means of "[e]xtreme pleas of desperate illness or appeals based primarily on sympathy, pity, or close personal friendship, or offers of inordinate sums of money," Taylor, 599 P.2d at 503, as well as "personalized high-pressure tactics, and appeals to extreme vulnerability," State v. Martinez, 848 P.2d 702, 706 (Utah Ct. App. 1993).
¶13 Hatchett argues that "even though [his] response[s] to the police inducements may seem inappropriate, they are the result of the police methods which created a substantial risk that the offense of enticement would occur." He claims that Special Agent "employed methods designed specifically to lead [his] targets into saying what needed to be said for [the] crime to occur," such as "deception and innuendo."
¶14 Hatchett cites State v. Kourbelas, 621 P.2d 1238 (Utah 1980), in support of his contention that he was entrapped when law enforcement targeted him without "any prior knowledge that [he] had sexual interest in minors." In Kourbelas, an undercover narcotics officer, posing as the assistant manager of a gas dock on Lake Powell, approached the defendant when he brought his houseboat in for refueling. Id. at 1238-39. During the course of their conversation, the officer "brought up the subject of selling marijuana" and suggested that the defendant could make "`a lot of money.'" Id. at 1239. The defendant replied that he would "`see what [he] can do'" about supplying the officer with marijuana and provided his contact information. Id. The officer subsequently contacted the defendant at least five times attempting to purchase marijuana before the defendant finally arranged to sell him some. Id. at 1240. In reversing the conviction on entrapment grounds, our Supreme Court found significant the facts that the officer was the one to broach the subject of purchasing marijuana from the defendant, he repeatedly contacted the defendant in an attempt to complete the transaction, and "there [was] no evidence that the defendant had previously possessed or dealt in the drug."
¶15 But Hatchett's argument on this ground is unsuccessful for two reasons. First, Hatchett overlooks Special Agent's testimony regarding the reasons he chose to investigate Hatchett's advertisement. Based on his Craigslist-specific training to detect posts "related or that could be related to minors," Special Agent testified that many people seeking sexual intercourse with minors "know the law" and "specifically" make law-abiding advertisements when "really wanting [someone] younger." He testified that "key signs" of such advertisements include the use of terms such as "young," "incest," "boy," "girl," "children," "adult children," or "anything that could be related." For that reason, despite expressly stating that he was seeking men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, Hatchett's advertisement entitled "Dad looking for Son (Provo)" prompted Special Agent to investigate further whether Hatchett's advertisement was more nefarious than might appear at first glance. And based on this explanation, we reject Hatchett's contention that Special Agent improperly initiated contact without suspicion that Hatchett desired to engage in wrongdoing. See Torres, 2000 UT 100, ¶ 14, 16 P.3d 1242 ("Where it is known or suspected that a person is engaged in criminal activities, or is desiring to do so, it is not an entrapment to provide an opportunity for such person to carry out his criminal intentions.") (quotation simplified).
¶16 Second, even if Special Agent did not suspect Hatchett of having an interest in minors when he initiated contact, the circumstances of this case are sufficiently distinguishable from Kourbelas to alter the outcome of the "evaluation of the circumstances." See Taylor, 599 P.2d at 503. Unlike the officer in Kourbelas, Special Agent did not persistently request that Hatchett commit an illegal offense. Where the undercover officer in Kourbelas "followed up" with the defendant after their initial interaction "by calling the defendant at least five times in attempting to purchase the marijuana," 621 P.2d at 1240, Hatchett was subjected to no such persistent effort. To the contrary, Hatchett aggressively pursued Cade after he was made aware of Cade's young age. The district court found that following their initial conversation, Hatchett initiated "at least 16" text-message conversations and "three phone calls" with Cade,
¶17 Moreover, this case is further distinguishable from Kourbelas because the undercover officer there was the one "who first suggested the purchase of marijuana from the defendant." Id. Here, Special Agent was specifically trained not to raise the subject of sex first as a means of determining whether it was the "intent" of the poster of potentially illegal advertisements "to do anything sexual" with his underage undercover persona. And it certainly did not take any prompting for Hatchett to begin engaging in a sexually explicit conversation with someone who said he was a minor. As soon as Cade revealed that he was "almost 14," Hatchett responded, "Nice. How tall, weight?" Cade's answer to that question was then immediately followed by, "Nice. If we do meet up it would have to be our little secret. You a top? Do you like to drink?" For these reasons, Hatchett's reliance on Kourbelas is unavailing.
¶18 Finally, we address Hatchett's suggestion that causation is evidence of entrapment. He argues that "[w]ithout ... police contact, no crime would have ever occurred." But the entrapment statute requires more than a mere showing that law enforcement "induce[d] the commission of [the] offense." Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-303(1) (LexisNexis 2017). It also requires a showing that they did so using "methods creating a substantial risk that the offense would be committed by one not otherwise ready to commit it." Id. And as discussed above, Hatchett has not demonstrated that Special Agent engaged in any such questionable methods.
¶19 For the foregoing reasons, this case does not present a set of circumstances under which "we can hold ... that reasonable minds cannot differ as to whether entrapment occurred." State v. Haltom, 2005 UT App 348, ¶ 7, 121 P.3d 42 (quotation simplified). His contention that Special Agent lacked reason to suspect him of wishing to engage in wrongdoing is unavailing. Additionally, although Hatchett asserts that he "fell for [Special Agent's] trap," he does not identify any "methods" that were allegedly "designed specifically to lead" individuals not otherwise ready to entice minors into committing the crime. We agree with the district court's conclusion that, "[a]t most, [Special Agent] afforded [Hatchett] the mere opportunity to commit the offense." See Utah Code Ann. § 76-2-303(1) (LexisNexis 2017). Hatchett's entrapment argument therefore fails.