Jeffrey MacKanin, a California Department of Justice special agent supervisor who oversaw a Federal and State task force investigating child exploitation crimes, posed on line as a 13-year-old runaway girl named “Hope.” On December 7, 2004 Arthur Crabtree, an attorney who sometimes acted as a “Pro Tem Judge” and was once a city of Glendale Police Officer, contacted “Hope” online. A series of contacts ensued between Crabtree and “Hope” over an approximate six-week period which included various sexual references, that he bought “Hope” a bikini, and that they would take a bubble-bath together. Crabtree ultimately sent “Hope” a bus ticket and arranged for the two to meet at a Los Angeles Greyhound station. Crabtree was arrested by the FBI at the Greyhound station after a special agent observed him approaching at least three different female teenagers. Crabtree was charged and eventually convicted in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County for, among other things, felony attempted lewd act upon a child under 14 stemming from his actions toward “Hope.”Crabtree appealed his conviction.
The essence of Crabtree’s argument on appeal of the attempted lewd act conviction was that his acts amounted to only preparation for committing a lewd act on “Hope” and his acts were insufficient to prove he attempted to commit a lewd act. Crabtree argued that the facts clearly showed that he had not reached the stage where the preparation had ended and the crime had begun, so as to make the attempt complete. Crabtree did not contest the fact that he drove to the bus station where he intended to meet “Hope” and that law enforcement found, among other things, condoms, Viagra, a bikini, and bubble bath in his trunk. However, he did argue that he was obviously not going to have sex with “Hope” in a bus depot but would have taken her to a hotel, and there were no hotel reservations made or any other evidence to support that his actions had moved form preparation to commit the crime to an attempt to commit a crime.
Despite his very creative legal arguments regarding his very creepy behavior, the appeals court was not convinced and upheld his attempted lewd act conviction on appeal. The court stated, “In other words, appellant would have the law require the police to watch idly until he actually entered a hotel room with “Hope” to carry out his clear-cut child molesting intent. The law is otherwise.” The court went on to explain that the law allows such criminal conduct to be stopped when it becomes clear what the actor’s intention is and the acts done show that the perpetrator is actually putting his plan into action. The court found that Crabtree’s actions in this case clearly rose to an attempt.