Kyle Cross, 29, a former police officer, met a young woman, 19, online. They chatted for two weeks—she told him she was in college studying criminal justice—and then enjoyed a fantastic weekend of shopping, dining, and, eventually, sex.
Now Cross is facing two charges of third degree sexual abuse in his town of Dubuque, Iowa, because the girl was actually a runaway 14-year-old. As KCRG explains:
Cross told some friends about his weekend with who he thought was his new girlfriend.
"My friend was like, 'Is this the name that you said, who she is?' And I am like 'Yeah' and he was like, 'Well she's a missing juvenile.' And my heart just sank," Cross said.
After that exchange, Cross said he immediately told police where they could find her. She was staying at his house. …
Three weeks later, in mid-March, investigators arrested Cross at his home. He was charged with 3rd-degree sexual abuse, posted $10,000 bond, and was released.
"How am I supposed to know? I took her out in public. We did all of this. I mean it was real in my eyes, but it's a game to her. How am I supposed to know? " Cross asked.
Cross has already lost his job as a money guard because he's not allowed to carry a gun while he awaits trial. And it's difficult to find a new job, since he is presumed to be a sexual predator.
The heart of the matter is this: there is little recourse for people who sincerely and understandably, but wrongly, believe their partner is past the age of consent:
According to Iowa law, someone having sexual contact with a 14 or 15-year-old is only legal if the other person is older by four years or less. In all other instances, such contact is illegal. One Dubuque criminal lawyer doesn't think Cross' argument will hold up in court.
"It doesn't matter whether you know the other person's age or not. The minor could come forward with a fake ID, a forged birth certificate and a bunch of people attesting to their age. It makes absolutely no difference whether you intended to do something that was against the law or not," Dubuque County Public Defender Steve Drahozal said.
When I wrote here and elsewhere about Zach Anderson and Darian Yoder—teenagers who also slept with underage girls who told them they were 19—some commenters jeered, "They should have asked for proof of the girl's age before they did anything!" But apparently, even that is not enough: Falsified proof is no excuse. Maybe judges would like would-be paramours to submit to some kind of carbon-dating scheme, whereby a few cells from the object of their affection can be shipped to a lab to determine their exact age before the relationship proceeds.