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New Jersey has made it a crime to lure a person from cyberspace to a real place with a criminal purpose in mind. Although A-2864, signed Jan. 18 by Acting Gov. Richard Codey, applies to all means used to lure, the Internet is its focal point. “The bill changes and sends a strong message to Internet predators — ‘you will be punished,’” Codey said. Under the law, it is a third-degree crime to attempt “via electronic or any other means, to lure or entice a person into a motor vehicle, structure or isolated area, or to meet or appear at any place, with a purpose to commit a criminal offense with or against the person lured or enticed or against any other person.” The law states that a conviction for luring will not merge with a conviction of any other criminal offense and that a court will impose separate sentences for each. In addition, a court may not suspend or make any other noncustodial disposition of any person sentenced under the law. John Cannel, executive director of the Law Revision Commission, says the new law makes clear that luring is a means to commit attempted crimes as defined by N.J.S.A. 2C:5-1. He calls the law “an adult clone” of N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6, which criminalizes luring or enticing children. “This makes it easier for prosecutors,” says William Heisler, an assistant Ocean County prosecutor, because prosecution can commence on the sending of a luring message, even before a criminal act. Heisler prosecuted the case that inspired the law, the prosecution of a man who posed as women in an Internet chat room and invited men to come to the women’s homes to play out rape fantasies. Two men accepted the invitations and went to two women’s homes, but their attempts to gain access were thwarted when the women called police. The defendant, Jonathan Gilberti, pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault of each of the women and was sentenced to two, consecutive five-year terms. Though the sentence was vacated due to a procedural skirmish, the Appellate Division reinstated it last November in State v. Gilberti, 373 N.J. Super. 1 (App. Div. 2004). It was a search of the lured men’s computers that provided evidence of the chat room conversations that led police to Gilberti. The two men were not charged. If the new luring law had been in effect, Heisler says, there would have been immediate grounds to arrest Gilberti. A-2864 was sponsored by Assembly members Linda Greenstein and Joseph Vas, D-Middlesex, N.J., and Frederick Scalera, D-Essex, N.J. Sen. John Adler, D-Camden, N.J., sponsored identical Senate bill S-1429.

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