Kyle Cross, 29, a former police officer, met a young woman online. They chatted for two weeks—she told him she was 19, and that 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 it turns out the girl was actually a runaway 14-year-old. After being notified by a friend that the person he thought was his new girlfriend was actually a missing juvenile, he immediately told police where they could find her. Three weeks later, investigators arrested Cross at his home. He posted bail and was released, but he 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 new employment since he is presumed to be a sexual predator.
"How am I supposed to know?" he asked, according to a story from the Cedar Rapids TV station KCRG. "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?"
Under the law, a sincere misunderstanding—even falsified proof—is no excuse. "It doesn't matter whether you know the other person's age or not," a Dubuque County public defender told KCRG. "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."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Criminal or Gullible?".