The Minnesota Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction of a St. Paul man found guilty in 2012 for having cybersex with a 15-year-old boy, ruling that it was possible the man thought the boy old enough to legally exchange sexual pictures and messages.
Thomas LaBlanc, 67, was prosecuted in Ramsey County District Court under a state law that makes it a felony to communicate sexually explicit materials via the Internet to children 15 and younger.
When a district judge found LaBlanc guilty and gave him a one-year stayed sentence, his attorney appealed on grounds that the evidence wasn’t sufficient to convict and that the law was unconstitutional.
On Monday, that appeal succeeded. While the appellate court didn’t rule on the constitutional question, it held that prosecutors hadn’t proven beyond a reasonable doubt that LaBlanc knew the boy was underage.
According to the opinion, “the district court provided no logical explanation for why appellant would have believed that [the boy] was 15 or younger instead of exactly 16.”
LaBlanc, a Native American dancer, met the boy when performing at his Missouri school in 2007. Prosecutors said they engaged in cybersex for months on the Myspace social media website. St. Paul police were told about the case in 2009.
Attorney Jeff Dean said Monday that LaBlanc had communicated with someone who “misrepresented his age and who appeared to be over 20 years old.” LaBlanc and his family, Dean said, were “very happy” about the reversal.