In October 2009, a Catoosa County Sheriff’s deputy pretending to be a 14-year-old girl named Tiffany posted a listing on an internet website indicating she was looking for something fun to do over an upcoming holiday weekend. Appellant, then a 27-year-old male, responded to the post and subsequently exchanged numerous e-mail communications with undercover officers who were posing as Tiffany. Appellant ultimately arranged to meet Tiffany, for the purpose of engaging in sexual relations. He was arrested by police when he arrived at the agreed upon meeting place.
Indictment Attack: Defendant was indicted on charges of computer pornography, attempted aggravated child molestation and attempted child molestation. See OCGA § 16-6-4 (a) and (c); OCGA § 16-12-100.2 (d). The trial court determined all three counts of the indictment were deficient because each failed to identify the victim of the alleged crimes. The State filed a second indictment charging Defendant with the same crimes but amended the language used so as to identify the victim as “ ‘Tiffany,’ a person believed by the accused to be a child” and “ ‘Tiffany,’ a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.” Defendant filed and won a second demurrer on the same basis. The State appealed and the ruling was affirmed. The State petitioned the high court to determine if the lower court erred.
To comport with constitutional due process an indictment charging a defendant with a criminal offense must satisfy two criteria: (1) it must contain the essential elements of the crimes and apprise a defendant of what he must be prepared to meet at trial; and (2) it must show with accuracy to what extent the defendant may plead a former acquittal or conviction.
A requirement that the officer’s true identity be included in the indictment would do nothing to further the goal of apprising the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet at trial. Rather, meaningful notice of the specific conduct forming the basis of the criminal charges in such cases is provided if the victim is identified by the alias or name by which he or she is known to the defendant. The State properly alleged the victim by stating the name in which Defendant knew her, thereby satisfying the first requirement. The second requirement was met by alleging the dates of the criminal conduct set forth in the indictment.