State v. Wilkinson, COA22-563, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Mar. 7, 2023)

In this New Hanover County case, defendant appealed his conviction for soliciting a child by computer, arguing error in denying his motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In 2019, defendant began communicating with a fifteen-year-old girl online. Defendant was aware of her age, but still messaged her regarding sexual activity, and on at least four occasions the girl went to defendant’s house. During these visits, defendant groped and kissed the girl. The FBI received a tip regarding defendant’s behavior and observed a conversation in August of 2019 where defendant messaged the girl on snapchat. Defendant was indicted on several charges related to his contact with the fifteen-year-old, but during the trial moved to dismiss only the charge of soliciting a child by computer. After being convicted of indecent liberties with a child and several over related offenses, defendant appealed the sufficiency of the evidence regarding the soliciting a child by computer charge alone.

Defendant argued that the evidence for soliciting a child by computer was insufficient because the snapchat messages from August of 2019 did not arrange a plan or show a request to meet in person before the fifteen-year-old’s sixteenth birthday. Defendant argued that this evidence failed to prove he intended to “commit an unlawful sex act” as required by G.S. 14-202.3(a). Slip Op. at 4-5. The Court of Appeals disagreed, explaining that although there was no explicit plan to meet in the snapchat messages, defendant’s intent could be inferred from the content of the messages and his previous conduct with the girl when she came to his house. Because defendant’s intent could be inferred regarding the necessary sex act, the court found no error when dismissing defendant’s motion.