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Does Congress want Angel Raich to break the law?

A Good but Broad Law

According to CNN.com, the United States has obtained its first conviction after trial under the amended "sex tourism" law:

An 86-year-old man was found guilty Friday of attempting to travel to the Philippines to sexually molest girls, in violation of a new federal law aimed at fighting sex tourism.

A judge found John W. Seljan guilty of six counts, including attempting to travel for the purpose of having sex with minors and possession of child pornography.

Seljan faces a minimum term of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 270 years when he is sentenced in March. The retired business owner is one of about a dozen men who have been arrested under the Protect Act, which was enacted last year.  The law made it easier to prosecute those who molest children overseas and increased penalties.

Seljan was the first to go to trial on charges brought under the Protect Act, though at least two men have pleaded guilty.

Although the article does not cite the law he was charged under, it's likely that he was convicted under 18 U.S.C. 2423:

(b) Travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. A person who travels in interstate commerce or travels into the United States, or a United States citizen or an alien admitted for permanent residence in the United States who travels in foreign commerce, for the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

Since Mr. Seljan was going to take a "sex trip" section 2423(b) would seem to cover his conduct.

However, there is one part of the law, added as part of the PROTECT Act, that has gone underreported:

[18 U.S.C. 2423] (c) Engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. Any United States citizen or alien admitted for permanent residence who travels in foreign commerce, and engages in any illicit sexual conduct with another person shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.

(f) Definition. As used in this section, the term "illicit sexual conduct" means (1) a sexual act (as defined in section 2246) with a person under 18 years of age that would be in violation of chapter 109A [18 USCS §§ 2241 et seq.] if the sexual act occurred in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States; or (2) any commercial sex act (as defined in section 1591) with a person under 18 years of age.

Although the law was drafted to punish perverts who seek to exploit young girls - indeed 2423(b) does this nicely - the overall law's coverage is much broader.

Notice that 18 U.S.C. 2423(c) makes it a crime to "engage in any illicit sexual conduct" - which means to have sexual conduct with someone under 18 - in a foreign jurisdiction.  A person is liable even if he did not travel with the intent to have sex with a person under 18-years old.  This means that a college kid traveling in Europe commits a sexual offense if he or she has sex with a 17-year old.  It also means our soldiers are at risk, because they could potentially be imprisoned for having consensual sex with a 17-year old.

Putting aside the merts of creating an international crime of statutory rape, that's that law, and it's something to keep in mind during your kid's next vacation. Let's also hope that JAG Officers have informed soldiers deployed abroad about 2423(c).

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