State v. Southerland, ___ N.C. App. ___, 832 S.E.2d 168 (Jul. 2, 2019)

The defendant, a 69 year-old male, wrote a letter to an 11 year-old girl and asked her grandmother to deliver the letter. The grandmother read the letter, in which the defendant asked the girl to have sex with him to make him “feel young again,” and called the police. The defendant was charged and convicted of engaging in indecent liberties with a minor under G.S. 14-202.1(a)(1). A person is guilty of this offense if he “[w]illfully takes or attempts to take any immoral, improper, or indecent liberties with any child of either sex under the age of 16 years for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire[.]”

On appeal, the defendant argued that it was error to deny his motion to dismiss at trial because there was insufficient evidence to show that he was ever “with” the minor as contemplated by the statute, or that he took any steps beyond mere preparation sufficient to constitute an “attempt” under the statute. The Court of Appeals rejected both arguments, citing to similar facts and holdings in State v. McClary, 198 N.C. App. 169 (2009). The statute does not require actual physical touching to constitute a taking or attempted taking of indecent liberties, and the delivery of the letter in this case was sufficient evidence of an attempt. Additionally, the letter itself provided adequate circumstantial evidence of the defendant’s unlawful purpose.