Court of Appeal accepts the testimony of the expert in “fantasy ageplay” unrelated to the conviction | Law courts
Fantasy role-playing and ageplay were at the heart of an appeals court ruling last week, after a man convicted of an internet sex crime said his expert witness had failed. not allowed to fully explain to the jury the dynamics of online interactions involving fake characters. .
A three-member appeal board, in a decision released on April 22, ultimately ruled that the restriction of the expert’s testimony was appropriate because his statements would not have spoken of a central element of the crime: whether l The accused believed he was communicating with a minor.
However, Adam Mueller, attorney for defendant Daniel Battigalli-Ansell, has indicated he will appeal the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, given that the specific issue at issue has never been decided before.
“These limitations deprived our client of his constitutional due process right to make a defense, and there is a reasonable probability that the outcome would have been different had the jury heard this important testimony,” Mueller said.
Battigalli-Ansell had used the online chat site Omegle to send instant messages with a person named “Brooke,” who was actually an investigator with the Jefferson County Judicial District’s Office of the First Attorney. On its home page, Omegle, which allows text and video chats, warns users under the age of 18 to seek permission from a parent or guardian because “predators are known to use Omegle.” Nonetheless, the company says revealing his true identity is “not suggested” while using Omegle.
“Brooke” told Battigalli-Ansell that she was 14, and Battigalli-Ansell assumed a false identity in response. He asked “Brooke” if she would have sex with him, and during further messages, “Brooke” gave him her phone number. The investigator sent a photo of an 18-year-old intern to the prosecutor’s office in Battigalli-Ansell, and he responded with a photo of his genitals.
A month later, the same investigator, still under the pseudonym “Brooke,” interacted with Battigalli-Ansell again. They also exchanged chat messages, text messages, phone calls, and ultimately Battigalli-Ansell uploaded another photo of the genitals.
A jury found Battigalli-Ansell guilty of sexually exploiting a child on the internet, which required him to know that the person he was communicating with was under 15. Battigalli-Ansell had argued that he believed “Brooke” was actually an adult who was simply playing the part of a child. During his trial, the defense brought in a prominent marriage, family and sex therapist, Marty Klein, to explain the fantasy-based erotic role-playing game in chat rooms.
But on appeal, Battigalli-Ansell claimed the trial court had unduly limited the topics Klein could talk about.
Jefferson County prosecutors argued with District Court Judge Christie A. Bachmeyer that Klein should not be allowed to comment on the benign nature of fantasy role-playing and age-play, studies showing that role-playing is part of normal sexual interactions, and fantasy role-playing does not involve someone as a pedophile, among other topics.
Bachmeyer only allowed the expert to talk about the definition of fantasy role-playing and age-play applied to the Internet, determining that any further talk “would be an unnecessary waste of time, might be confusing and not be helpful. to the jury “.
Judges on the appeal panel appeared equally puzzled on both sides during oral argument as they tried to figure out what Klein’s views might have contributed to the trial.
“The legislature had declared that this kind of behavior, texting your sexual organs and pretending to engage in it, is illegal,” Justice David J. Richman said. “How is this opinion relevant, that ‘other people are doing it and I, Dr Klein, think this is normal?’ And the legislature said, “It’s illegal. This is not normal.'”
“Can we agree,” retorted Orlov judge Lino S. Lipinsky, “that some adults use Omegle for fantasy age play? And that during the age game nobody says, “I play the age game”, because that would break the spell? And if that’s true, why couldn’t an expert explain to a lay jury that adults engage in this type of communication through sites like Omegle? “
Assistant Attorney General Trina K. Taylor acknowledged that adults use Omegle for age play, but said the general context is all that the expert witness should be able to discuss. Norman Mueller, representing Batigalli-Ansell, instead argued that in the absence of an expert to interpret the literal transcription of the interaction, “the jury does not understand why age play is part of role play. fantastic normal “.
The panel ultimately disagreed with Mueller’s statement, believing that Klein’s view that the transcripts were consistent with fantasy role-playing “touched on more than the general characteristics of people who engage in role-playing games.” the fantastic age ”.
Klein’s expected testimony would have been “unrelated to the sole issue at trial – whether Battigalli-Ansell believed he was communicating with someone under the age of fifteen or older,” Lipinsky wrote in the court decision.
Battigalli-Ansell’s lawyers have said he is currently serving a 10-year life sentence with probation. Klein declined to comment on the court ruling or his expected testimony, but his the website includes an article from December 2009 describing another trial in Colorado in which he testified, where a man conversed online with a minor character the accused believed to be playing with age.
“Was he really looking to have sex with a child? I don’t know – I never spoke to the guy, I certainly never evaluated him clinically,” Klein wrote of the ‘accused in this case. “But it was not up to him to prove that he was not. Since the state had taken the trouble to arrest him, humiliate him, accuse him and destroy his life, it was incumbent on him. ‘State to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that his behavior was calculated and dangerous. “
The case is People c. Battigalli-Ansell.