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Stoltz v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia

August 1, 2019

Robert Leigh Stoltz, Appellant,
v.
Commonwealth of Virginia, Appellee.

          Upon appeal from a judgment rendered by the Court of Appeals No. 0352-17-4 of Virginia.

         Robert Leigh Stoltz challenges his conviction for violating Code § 18.2-374.3(C) by using a computer for the purpose of soliciting a minor. Stoltz claims that the statute is both vague and overbroad, thus violating his freedom of speech and his due process rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. The trial court and the Court of Appeals disagreed with Stoltz, as do we.

         I.

         "On appeal, we review the evidence in the 'light most favorable' to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party in the trial court." Commonwealth v. Perkins, 295 Va. 323, 323 (2018) (per curiam) (citation omitted). "Viewing the record through this evidentiary prism requires us to 'discard the evidence of the accused in conflict with that of the Commonwealth, and regard as true all the credible evidence favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair inferences to be drawn therefrom.'" Id. at 323-24 (citation omitted).

         So viewed, the record shows that in 2014, the Fairfax County Police Department operated a Child Exploitation Unit ("CEU") dedicated to, among other things, investigating "solicitations of minors by adults using the [I]nternet as the main source of that solicitation." 1 J.A. at 272-73. Working in an "undercover capacity," CEU detectives would pose as minors and appear on websites "looking for potential child predators." Id. at 273-74. In November 2014, a CEU detective posed as a 13-year-old girl named Annie and accessed the Casual Encounters webpage of Craigslist. At that time, the Casual Encounters webpage allowed individuals to post advertisements seeking casual, anonymous sex. A notification on that webpage stated that only adults could use it, but, as the detective testified, "there's no verification of any kind" because the user does not "have to provide a name, an email address, [or] an identification. So it's open to everybody." Id. at 275-76. Based upon his prior "training and experience with child exploitation investigations," the detective knew that minors accessed the Casual Encounters webpage of Craigslist. Id. at 276-77.[1]

         The detective scanned through the advertisements on the Casual Encounters webpage and discovered an advertisement, later confirmed to have been posted by Stoltz, entitled: "Can I CUM on you? Quick shot and heavy load! - m4w - 34 (northern va)." Commonwealth's Ex. 1 (emphasis in original).[2] Accompanied by a picture of an erect penis, the pertinent part of Stoltz's advertisement stated:

Sorry for the repost - but too many flakes...
Still so horny - blue balls type weekend. I really really need to shoot my load and would love to shoot it on someone who is turned on by cum shots, cum fetishes, or just loves to get cummed on. Also anyone that is curious about it too... I can be quick - or not - your call.
I will cum wherever you want me to -->
ass/chest/face/mouth/pussy/stomach/feet, etc. You will need to host at your place -- or your office -- car.
Safe, VERY clean, normal, and cute white-guy here. Athletic physique with a good sized and very cum filled cock. Discrete.

Id. (alterations in original).

         Stoltz's advertisement caught the detective's eye because some advertisements on that webpage (he did not specify what percentage) would expressly say: "I'm looking for an adult, or I'm looking for an age range . . . twenty to twenty-five, or eighteen and over." 1 J.A. at 329. The "vagueness" of Stoltz's advertisement drew the detective's attention based on his "experience working these types of investigations" and the fact that "[t]here was nothing specifically asking for an adult." Id. Having "responded and looked at thousands" of advertisements on Craigslist and similar websites, the detective had "never seen" an advertisement that explicitly said an adult was looking for sex with a minor. Id. at 329-30. Pedophiles are never that direct, the detective explained, because "Craigslist would remove the ad immediately" if it expressly sought out a minor. Id. at 330.

         The detective responded to Stoltz's advertisement posing as 13-year-old Annie, stating that she was not in school that day. When Annie offered to send a photograph of herself, Stoltz responded that he would love to see one. The detective sent Stoltz a picture of the face of an adult Fairfax County animal control officer. Pictures of the animal control officer, a 25-year-old with a youthful face, had been used in prior undercover investigations. The email conversation through Craigslist continued with Annie asking what Stoltz wanted to do. Annie also asked Stoltz whether it was okay that she could not drive. Stoltz responded that he would "like to do what I said in my ...


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