Advances to Girl Held Enough for Attempted Kidnapping

, New York Law Journal

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A divided state appeals panel has upheld the attempted kidnapping sentence of a previously convicted child molester who repeatedly made advances toward a 10-year-old girl and eventually tried to give her the keys to his apartment, which she refused.

The 3-2 Appellate Division, First Department, panel ruled in People v. Denson, 701/99, that the man, Raymond Denson, offered the keys to the girl in the hope that she would come willingly to his apartment where he could molest her, and that this constituted attempted kidnapping even though there was no evidence that the girl might have agreed.

The majority, comprised of Justices Angela Mazzarelli (See Profile), Sallie Manzanet-Daniels (See Profile) and Judith Gische (See Profile), said in an unsigned decision that although Denson did not harm the girl, he "came dangerously near to achieving his objective." Their ruling upheld a 10-year sentence imposed by former Manhattan Supreme Court Justice James Yates in 2002.

Justice David Saxe (See Profile) dissented, joined by Richard Andrias (See Profile), saying that while Denson did endanger the welfare of the girl, his behavior did not amount to attempted kidnapping.

According to the opinion, Denson expressed interest in the girl in 1998, while he was working in a hardware store in the first floor of the building where she lived. Denson, then 54, had been convicted of a sex crime against his stepdaughter more than 20 years earlier.

Denson knew that the girl walked home from school alone and was alone in her apartment until her mother returned from work. He repeatedly approached her and asked her to have ice cream, go ice skating and go to the movies.

One day he came to her apartment uninvited and asked her to go out with him. Eventually, he tried to give her the keys to his apartment and said she could go there while her mother wasn't home. This frightened the girl, and her mother called the police soon after, prompting Denson's arrest and charges.

At the non-jury trial, even the defense expert conceded that Denson had been found by mental health professionals to be a "pedophile," that he was "highly fixated" on the girl, had "eroticized thoughts" about her, tried to "forge an adult-type relationship with her" and was "in pursuit" of her. Yates also heard testimony about Denson's previous sex crime before convicting and imposing the sentence.

On appeal, the majority found no reason to disturb the conviction.

"Defendant's entire course of conduct toward the victim mirrored his conduct toward his stepdaughter, whom he had molested years earlier," the majority wrote.

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