Conniving Casanovas, beware: A New Jersey lawmaker wants to make lying for sex punishable by charges of rape, creating the crime of “sexual assault by fraud.”
Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, introduced the bill this month and defined the proposed crime as an “act of sexual penetration to which a person has given consent because the actor has misrepresented the purpose of the act or has represented he is someone he is not.”
Singleton, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday, told NJ.com he decided to introduce the bill after speaking with Mischele Lewis, of Florence, who was duped into giving $5,000 to her boyfriend, William Allen Jordan, of Cherry Hill, for what he claimed was security clearance connected to his job as a British military official. Jordan, a serial bigamist and scam artist, pleaded guilty earlier this month to defrauding Lewis.
“I truly believe that we have to look at the issue of rape as more than sexual contact without consent,” Singleton said. “Fraud invalidates any semblance of consent, just as forcible sexual contact does. This legislation is designed to provide our state's judiciary with another tool to assess situations where this occurs and potentially provide a legal remedy to those circumstances.”
Singleton said he’s open to refining the bill, which currently doesn’t consider sexual assault by fraud any less serious than other types of sexual assault already on the books. Depending on “circumstances surrounding the act,” the crime could be a first-degree or second-degree crime, punishable by up to 20 years and 10 years in prison, respectively.
"The punishment aspect, that part we didn’t touch,” Singleton told NJ.com. “The prosecutors and the judges and the jurors would be able to use discretion.”
Author Joyce Short took on the subject of “rape by fraud” in “Carnal Abuse by Deceit: How a Predator’s Lies Became Rape,” claiming she was deceived for years by a man who is now her ex-husband.
“When you are told lies of identity, you’re basically having a sexual relationship with a person who is a total stranger,” Short told CBS New York. “He lied about his marital status, he lied about his education. He said he had a bachelor’s in accounting from NYU and was, in fact, a high school dropout.”
Sex by fraud is reportedly already a crime in at least five states, including California and Tennessee, while some jurisdictions like Alabama consider it a lesser offense than rape.
Some critics of the proposed legislation say it should be a matter of personal responsibility, not a case for local prosecutors.
“She or he should do their due diligence and check the guy out,” Mark Harris told CBS New York. “If he or she isn’t what they say they are, then move on.”
One prominent New Jersey attorney who has previously represented defendants accused of sexual assault said the bill is far too broad and likely won’t pass a constitutional challenge.
“What if a man were to say to a woman ‘I love you’ and engage in sex and he really didn’t love her? It could be as simple as that,” attorney Alan Zegas told NJ.com. “The definition is so broad that it doesn’t put the citizens of the state on fair notice of what it is that constitutes the crime.”