A new bill has been introduced that could potentially prompt charges of rape to anyone who engages in sexual activity with another person under a false pretense.
The crime would be referred to as “sexual assault by fraud.” According to bill (A3908), it is defined 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.”
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Troy Singleton earlier this month after speaking with Florence resident Mischele Lewis, who was conned by her boyfriend, Cherry Hill resident, William Allen Jordan. Jordan tricked Lewis into paying him $5,000 for what he claimed was a “security clearance” and later pleaded guilty to defrauding Lewis. Jordan had also told Lewis that he was a British military official.
During the case, prosecutors tried to charge Jordan with sexual assault by coercion to no avail. Singleton believes that there should be legislation in place for these situations.
“I truly believe that we have to look at the issue of rape as more than sexual contact without consent,” Singleton told NJ.com. “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."
The bill currently under the amendment process would consider sexual assault by fraud just as serious as any other type of sexual assault, meaning it could be charged as a first degree crime or second.
New York City resident Joyce M. Short has written a book about “rape-by-fraud,” where she describes her relationship with a man who lied about his age, marital status, education, military service, etc.
Short made the case that while Jordan did not threaten Lewis, he did “seduce her through a hoax, through fraudulent means.” Short believes that “just like Bernie Madoff is in prison because he stole money from people by defrauding them, someone can vitiate your knowing consent by defrauding you in order to have sex.”
Not everyone is on board with the new bill. New Jersey criminal defense attorney Alan Zegas believes the bill is too broad and would not withstand 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?” 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.”
In a 2013 article for the Yale Law Journal, Professor Jed Rubenfeld spoke on the matter. Rubenfeld believed that “rape-by-deception” should be accepted into American criminal law because “courts have held for a hundred years in virtually every area of the law outside of rape, a consent procured through deception is no consent at all.”