Gay sexting Georgia cop’s sodomy bust dumped

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A Georgia cop fired and jailed for offering gay blowies to a teenager in his grandmother's house had his conviction overturned on Monday by a state Supreme Court that also spelled out exactly how to legally solicit sodomy.

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the convictions and 5-year prison sentence that James Edwin Watson (photo right) received in 2011 for sexting a 17-year-old high school athlete he met during a call while on duty as a police officer in Nashville, a town in southeast Georgia. The court announced the decision early Monday.

“We now reaffirm the constitutionality of the solicitation of sodomy statute, but find that the evidence was insufficient to convict Watson under that statute,” according to the court opinion. “In addition, because the counts in the indictment charging Watson with violating his oath of office were expressly premised on a finding that he had violated the solicitation of sodomy statute, we likewise must reverse the convictions on those counts.”

The court heard arguments in the case in May during a sometimes humorous session with the talk of gay sex seeming to ick out District Attorney Richard Perryman (top photo), the Alapaha Judicial Circuit prosecutor who pursued the charges against Watson.

The case dates to March 1, 2009 when Watson, a then 27-year-old officer with the Nashville Police Department in Berrien County, responded to call about a dog attack. The teen, 17-year-old C.B., was with a friend whose dog was attacked. After Watson addressed the situation, he offered to give C.B. a ride home. Less than two weeks later, Watson was ensnared in a GBI sting and arrested. In 2011, a jury convicted him of two felony counts of violating his oath of office and two misdemeanor counts of solicitation of sodomy.

After dealing with the dog situation, Watson gave C.B. a ride home. The next day, Watson added C.B. as a “friend” on Facebook and sent the boy a message saying they needed to discuss his “payment” for taking him home. On March 4, C.B. was waiting to play at a high school tennis match when he read Watson’s message on his Facebook page. C.B. then sent a text message to Watson and asked what he had meant by “payment.” Watson texted back: “What about me and u getting 2gether sometime 2 have a little fun if u know what I mean.” C.B. responded he was not “like that,” to which Watson replied, “ok well if u change ur mind just let me know u may like it i didn’t until I let someone talk me into it.” C.B. then told his high school tennis coach what had been happening and showed her the text messages. She told the principal who called law enforcement.

On March 13, C.B. met with a GBI Special Agent and made two recorded telephone calls to Watson in the agent’s presence. C.B. made the first call to Watson while he was on duty, suggesting he was considering Watson’s proposal and asking what to expect. During the second call, Watson explicitly discussed specific acts of sodomy. In both conversations, Watson said repeatedly that C.B. did not have to do anything he did not want to do. Based on these conversations, Watson was arrested and indicted for two felony counts of violating his oath of office and two misdemeanor counts of solicitation of sodomy.

Watson's attorneys argued that the law is an unconstitutional abridgment of his free speech and due process rights, and that it criminalizes even basic discussions of sodomy. Prosecutors successfully tied Watson's solicitation of sex to his public duties as a police officer, which falls under the portion of the state law that wasn't struck down in the 1998 decision in Powell v. State. That decision dumped the portion of the law that criminalized “private, unforced, non-commercial acts of sexual intimacy between persons legally able to consent,” which is 16 in Georgia.

On Monday, the court spelled out how you can legally solicit sodomy. 

In its 1998 decision in Powell v. State, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that to withstand a constitutional attack, the sodomy statute must be construed in a limited manner to avoid criminalizing “private, unforced, non-commercial acts of sexual intimacy between persons legally able to consent.” Subsequently, in 2000, it ruled in Howard v. State that “this Court can narrowly construe the solicitation of sodomy statute to only punish speech soliciting sodomy that is not protected by the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy.”

In today’s opinion, the high court has defined the scope of conduct that is prohibited by the statute: “Under the applicable statutes, as construed in Powell and Howard, an individual violates the solicitation of sodomy statute if he (1) solicits another individual (2) to perform or submit to a sexual act involving the sex organs of one and the mouth or anus of the other and (3) such sexual act is to be performed (a) in public; (b) in exchange for money or anything of commercial value; (c) by force; or (d) by or with an individual who is incapable of giving legal consent to sexual activity.” In Georgia, the legal age of consent to sexual activity is 16.

And with that, the court ruled that the evidence against Watson was enough to prove the first two of three elements, but not the third.

Specifically, the Court held, the prosecution failed to prove that the proposed sexual acts were to be performed in public, in exchange for money or anything of commercial value, by force, or by one legally incapable of consenting to such acts.

“Accordingly, Watson’s convictions and sentences for solicitation of sodomy must be reversed.”

And because both counts in the indictment charging Watson with violating his oath of office are based specifically on the finding that Watson committed the offense of soliciting sodomy, “[w]e are therefore constrained to reverse Watson’s convictions for violation of oath of office,” the opinion says.

Keep those guidelines handy the next time you're sexting and soliciting.

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