The Court of Appeals said Tuesday that a Vancouver man isn’t guilty of kidnapping a boy he met on an adult phone chat line because the child consented to being driven to the man’s home.
The appellate court threw out Steven M. Dillon’s 2009 kidnapping conviction on those grounds.
While Dillon, 59, is serving a 25-year prison sentence on a child rape conviction in connection to the case, prosecutors worry the appellate court’s decision on the kidnapping charge will lead to a dangerous precedent.
“We feel this decision brings public safety concerns,” Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey said upon hearing the ruling.
Harvey said there’s a strong chance prosecutors will appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court.
In a 3-0 decision, the higher court said that while the boy was underage and, therefore, not old enough to consent to being taken by Dillon, there was no evidence he was “restrained,” one of the rules of a kidnapping charge.
“It is undisputed that the state proved the ‘without consent’ element of the restraint by virtue of (the boy’s) age,” the ruling said. “The issue is whether the evidence is sufficient to show that Dillon intentionally and substantially interfered with (the boy’s) liberty.”
Dillon met the boy — who presented himself as an 18-year-old woman — in August 2008 on an adult singles chat line. After arranging to pick him up at his Portland home, Dillon met him and realized he was an underage boy but decided to go forward with the sex act, according to court documents.
He drove him to his Vancouver apartment, where Dillon and his girlfriend, Lori Spangler, sexually abused him. (Spangler received 18 months in prison for her role).
During the event, the boy kept asking to be taken back home, according to court documents.
A Clark County jury in 2009 convicted Dillon of first-degree kidnapping with sexual motivation and second-degree child rape.
Dillon’s convictions of child rape and kidnapping both came with enhancements that his actions were “predatory” and committed against a stranger. Since the charges ran concurrently and weren’t stacked, the higher court’s decision won’t affect his sentence.
Still, Harvey said the appellate decision raises concerns. The ruling was published, meaning it can be used as case law for future court decisions.
“This ruling really speaks to how we protect our children,” he said.
The deputy prosecutor disagrees with the court’s interpretation of the kidnapping charge, saying the restraint was shown in taking the child in a car to a secret location with no way the boy could escape.
The state has to wait for the Court of Appeals to settle a separate evidence dispute before appealing to the state Supreme Court.