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The People v. Inderjeet Singh

August 11, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
INDERJEET SINGH, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. No. RIF128501) APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Riverside County, Roger A. Luebs, Judge. Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcintyre, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

In this case we address whether subjecting sex offenders convicted under Penal Code section 288, subdivision (a) (§ 288(a)) (lewd or lascivious conduct with a minor under the age of 14), to mandatory sex offender registration violates their right to equal protection of the laws where registration for certain other sex offenders is discretionary. (Undesignated statutory references are to the Penal Code.) We conclude that it does not violate equal protection because offenders convicted under section 288(a) are not similarly situated to persons convicted of offenses under section 261.5 (unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor), section 288a, subdivision (b)(1) (§ 288a(b)(1)) (oral copulation with a minor), and section 289, subdivision (h) (§ 289(h)) (sexual penetration with a minor). Section 288(a) affords a specific protection to minors under the age of 14 and is a specific intent offense whereas section 261.5, section 288a(b)(1), and section 289(h) involve general intent offenses against minors under the age of 18. We also reject defendant's assertion that the evidence was insufficient to convict him because more than one inference can be drawn from the evidence regarding his intent.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In January 2006, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department conducted a sting operation in Mira Loma that involved Perverted Justice, an organization aimed at "protecting kids from internet predators," and NBC's Dateline television show. Perverted Justice volunteers pose as children in internet chat rooms to find sexual predators.

As part of the sting operation, Carey Gregory, a Perverted Justice volunteer, posed as a 12-year-old girl named "Julie" in an internet chat room. Gregory used the screen name "juliegrrrrrl" and created a profile for "Julie" that included a picture of a young girl and indicated that she was 12 years old. While "Julie" was in the chat room, Inderjeet Singh viewed her profile. Singh then contacted "Julie" and proceeded to have a sexually explicit discussion with her online.

At the outset of their conversation, Singh asked "Julie" for her age, sex and location, to which "Julie" responded that she was a 12-year-old female in Riverside. "Julie" also told him that she was in the sixth grade. Singh quickly turned the chat in a sexual direction by asking "Julie" if it is true "that middle school people are sex freak[s]." Singh asked detailed questions about "Julie's" prior sexual experiences, such as whether she knew what "eating out" was, whether she liked playing in the shower, if she was sure "[she] can take older guy," and if she likes "doggy style." Singh informed "Julie" that if she felt a "need for sex," he could "fulfill that need."

At one point, Singh expressed concern about whether he would be in trouble for talking to a teenager online and stated that he was a "bit concerned doing under age." Singh continued the discussion by suggesting that they watch a movie together and play video games. Shortly thereafter, however, Singh turned the conversation back to sex and made arrangements to meet "Julie" at her house. "Julie" suggested that Singh bring "mikes hard lemonade" and condoms with him.

As planned, Singh went to "Julie's" house the next day. He did not bring any alcohol or sexually related material with him. When Singh entered the house, he was confronted by a Dateline reporter. After a conversation with the reporter, Singh left the house and was arrested by officers involved in the sting operation.

DISCUSSION

I. Substantial Evidence Supported the Conviction

Singh claims the evidence was insufficient to convict him because more than one reasonable inference can be drawn from the evidence regarding his intent. We reject Singh's argument.

In determining the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, "the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." (Jackson v. Virginia (1979) 443 U.S. 307, 319.) "[T]he court must review the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment below to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence -- that is, evidence which is reasonable, credible, and of solid value -- such that a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." (People v. Johnson (1980) 26 Cal.3d 557, 578.) Moreover, "'[a] judgment of conviction will not be set aside for insufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's verdict unless it is clearly shown there is no basis on which the evidence can support the conclusion of the jury. The credibility of witnesses and the weight to be accorded to the evidence are matters to be determined by the trier of fact. [Citations.]'" (People v. Cardenas (1994) 21 Cal.App.4th 927, 938.) Reversal of the judgment is not warranted even if we might have made contrary findings or drawn different inferences, as it is the trier of fact, not the appellate court, that must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. (People v. Perez (1992) 2 Cal.4th 1117, 1126.)

To sustain a conviction of attempted violation of section 288(a), the prosecution has the burden of demonstrating (1) the defendant intended to commit a lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14 years of age, and (2) the defendant took a direct but ineffectual step toward committing a lewd and lascivious act with a child under 14 years of age. (See People v. Memro (1985) 38 Cal.3d 658, 698, overruled on other grounds by People v. Gains (2009) 46 Cal.4th 172, 181.) The ...


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