The 9th District Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a man accused of asking a girl to be “secret friends” on Facebook.
The appellate court, as other courts have done in the past, ruled Ohio’s child enticement statute is overly broad and unconstitutional.
In a 3-0 ruling released Wednesday, the court vacated the misdemeanor conviction of John David Goode Jr., a one-time write-in candidate for a seat on the Akron Public Schools board.
Goode, who also worked stocking shelves for the Akron-Summit County Public Library branch in Kenmore, was arrested in October 2011. He since has been fired from the part-time job.
Akron police said Goode was inside a minivan when he parked and tried to speak with a 13-year-old girl walking home from the library.
The girl told police she had just left the Kenmore library when Goode struck up a conversation. Police said Goode asked her name so he could find her on Facebook and they could be “secret friends.”
Goode, 37, was convicted in February 2012 of the misdemeanor charge in Akron Municipal Court and received a suspended 180-day jail sentence and two years’ probation. He has been on house arrest for more than a year.
Goode did not testify in the case. His attorney, Charles Olminsky, argued the constitutionality of the Ohio law directly to Judge Kathryn Michael.
Olminsky said Goode was acquainted with the girl from his work at the library and had no intention to harm her.
“This was a constitutional issue that we tried directly to the court. There was no sexual motivation [on Goode’s part],” Olminsky said.
It is unclear if prosecutors will appeal.
Akron City Prosecutor Gertrude Wilms could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In the appellate court’s decision, Judge Eve Belfance said Michael should have dismissed the charge.
Belfance, writing for the majority, cited three other Ohio appellate courts that found the child enticement statute unconstitutional, primarily because it lacks “illicit intent” provisions.
The statute, as written, does not allow adults to “knowingly solicit, coax, entice, or lure any child under fourteen years of age to accompany the person in any manner” if the person “does not have the express or implied permission” of the child’s parents or guardians.
Exceptions are made for safety workers and educators who are acting in their professional capacity. Belfance wrote that the statute is vague and potentially “infringes on speech and conduct.”
“For example, parents picking up their child from school would theoretically violate [the law] merely by asking their child’s friend if he or she wanted a ride home,” she wrote.
Prosecutors had argued that the law gives police officers discretion on what constitutes criminal conduct and when to charge a person. That selective enforcement and similar allowances of discretion have also been found unconstitutional, Belfance wrote.
The ruling requires Michael to dismiss the conviction.