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Sex crime conviction doesn’t require actual victim

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The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a sex trafficking conviction stemming from a sting operation during the 2017 Sturgis Rally. One of the men caught up in the sting says he was just looking for a massage. And he says there was no pimp and no 15-year-old victim. The ad he answered was a law enforcement fabrication.

Carlocito Slim was 31 years old when he responded to an ad in Backpage under “Women Seeking Men,” with the title “Who Wants to Be Naughty?” The ad included a photo of a woman, actually a law officer altered to look younger, indicating she was 20 years old.

Slim entered into text messages with Special Agent Toby Russell of South Dakota’s Division of Criminal Investigation, who passed himself off as a pimp.

A day after the first contacts, Russell messaged to Slim that he’d be getting a 15-year-old girl who was “fresh as hell.” When Slim showed up at the meeting place carrying condoms and $200, he was arrested and later convicted of two federal felonies.

At oral arguments in March, Slim was represented by Rapid City attorney Terry Pechota.

He told the three appellate judges that his client had a bad back and was looking for a masseuse.

Judge David Stras explored that contention.

“Why did he text-message about condoms and bring a condom to a massage?” he asked.

Pechota maintained that Slim, who had been academically challenged in school, did not understand and continued negotiations seeking a massage.

“He doesn’t ask about whether or not the girl is 16, or whether they’re going to engage in any funny stuff or illegal stuff,” Pechota said. “He says, ‘Are you available? Do you offer a massage?’”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Kelderman said Slim knew what was going on.

“He even confirmed in his interview later, when Special Agent Russell interviewed him at the Homeland Security investigations office, he confirmed that he was going there and he thought he was going to get some,” Kelderman said.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the conviction. The judges held that caselaw allows a suspect to be charged if he intended to have sex with a minor, even if there was no actual minor and his belief was mistaken.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007.