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[Moxley Confidential] Justices rule Brea resident who chased 13-year-old girl for sex had solid entrapment defense against HB police

In the Deputy AG's mind, Villapando should blame himself for his troubles because he "could have simply ignored the [decoy's first] email, like the 85 or 90 others who initially responded to the Craigslist ad." By driving to meet the decoy for a prearranged sex date, he undoubtedly violated the law, according to Rhodes. She also deemed any potential law-enforcement errors "harmless."

In deciding the case, the appellate justices didn't consider whether Scarbrough violated discovery rules because they sided with Ford on his other complaints. "The circumstances constitute substantial evidence that would support a finding the police conduct went beyond simply creating the opportunity for Villapando to act unlawfully," they determined. "The record supports the finding that the intent to commit the charged offenses, by seeking out a 13-year-old girl, originated in the mind of the police officers involved in the investigation, not in Villapando's mind. In the course of seeking consensual sex with a woman in an adult forum, [the defendant] was arguably induced by the police to pursue the fictional 13-year-old Jessie, as they appealed to Villapando's sexual fantasies and urged him to continue the exchange of communications and meet for sex."

While careful to not declare that Caouette and Smith engaged in entrapment—that's to be determined only by a future jury—the justices also ridiculed Judge Prickett for failing to give Villapando's original jury the option of considering entrapment as a defense. They wrote that a "reasonable jury could have found that the police conduct here was likely to induce a normally law-abiding person to commit some or all of the charged crimes." Lastly, they ordered a new trial.

Vinnie Villapando
Vinnie Villapando

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For Ford, who is also the publisher of the California Criminal Law Reporter, the justices made the right call.

"Creating a crime, then 'solving' it in this manner may be a relatively easy means by which to make arrests," he argued. "But crime prevention cannot be prefaced with crime creation [by police]."

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