Sunday, June 14, 2009

SORA: When Is Person Whom The Defendant Had Never Seen Before Not a Stranger

In People v Helmer (2009 NY Slip Op 04830 4th Dept 6/12/09) the sole issue was whether the victim was a stranger to defendant for purposes of determining whether defendant should have been assessed 20 points on the risk assessment instrument for risk factor 7, "[r]elationship with victim."

The Court held that despite the fact that it was undisputed that defendant and the 15 year old victim had sexual relations on the same day on which they had their first face-to-face meeting, she was not a stranger to the defendant. The Court based this holding on the fact that the defendant and the victim had communicated via the Internet and telephone for several weeks before they actually met in person.

Prior to meeting, they had more than 100 Internet exchanges and 30 telephone calls and through their communications, the victim knew defendant's name and age, as well as the status of defendant's pending divorce. The Court concluded that
The risk assessment guidelines provide that "the term stranger' includes anyone who is not an actual acquaintance of the victim" (Sex Offender Registration Act: Risk Assessment Guidelines and Commentary, at 12 [2006]). The term "acquaintance" spans a range of social interactions, and we conclude in this case that, based upon the extensive communication through electronic means over a period of weeks and the information learned therein, defendant and the victim were not strangers when they engaged in sexual relations.

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