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The People v. Fatih Yuksel

July 11, 2012


APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. Eric C. Taylor, Judge. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. YA076624)

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



Fatih Yuksel appeals from his conviction for arranging to meet with a minor for sexual purposes. We affirm.


Torrance Police Department Detective Dennis Brady was working in a unit targeting sexual assaults and internet crimes against children. Using a decoy internet-profile named "Taylorgurl" that he had created to lure on-line predators, Detective Brady logged into an internet chat room in November 2009. Appellant Fatih Yuksel, who had also logged into the chat room, began exchanging on-line instant messages with Detective Brady. Identifying himself as Taylorgurl, Detective Brady told appellant that he was a 14-year-old girl from Torrance. At appellant's request, Detective Brady sent on-line photographs to appellant of a young-looking decoy female police officer purporting to be Taylorgurl. Over several chat sessions during the next few days, appellant turned the content of the instant messages between Taylorgurl and himself to sexual matters. Four days after their first on-line exchange, appellant arranged to meet with Taylorgurl at a fast food restaurant in Torrance. When appellant arrived as scheduled at the restaurant, police arrested him.

The People charged appellant with the crime of meeting a person whom appellant believed to be a minor for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. Appellant pleaded not guilty. A jury convicted appellant as charged. The court sentenced appellant to 5 years' formal probation, contingent upon his serving 180 days in county jail, 30 days of community service, and 52 weeks of counseling. This appeal followed.


Defendant contends the trial court committed two errors that warrant reversal. First, the court improperly defined the word "child" in its jury instruction on the elements of the crime. Second, the trial court unduly restricted the scope of the defense expert's testimony. We find neither point persuasive.

1. Jury Instruction that a "Child" Is Anyone Under 18 Years Old

The People charged appellant with violating section 288.4, subdivision (b).*fn1 The statute targets an adult who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, arranges a sexually illicit meeting with a minor. At the close of evidence, the court instructed the jury as follows: "To prove that the defendant is guilty of [violating section 288.4, subdivision (b)], the People must prove that: [¶] 1. The defendant arranged a meeting with a person he believed to be a minor; [¶] 2. When the defendant did so, he was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children . . . ." (CALCRIM No. 1126.) The court instructed that "A minor is a person under the age of 18." (Italics added.) Over appellant's objection, the court additionally instructed, "A child is any person under the age of 18 years." (Italics added.)

Appellant correctly notes that in general the meaning of the words "minor" and "child" overlap, but are not exactly the same. California defines a minor as a person not of the age of majority, which is 18 years old. (Fam. Code, § 6500.) The definition of "child" is less precise. Webster's dictionary, for example, defines a child as "a young person esp[ecially] between infancy and youth." (Merriam Webster's Tenth Edition Collegiate Dictionary (1995) p. 198.) Recognizing the difference between a minor and a child, the United States military permits a 17-year-old to enlist with a parent's permission, permission required by the enlistee's being a minor even though one would not call a 17-year-old enlistee a child. (10 U.S.C. § 505, subd. (a).) And, cultural practices often distinguish between a minor and a child. Coming-of-age rites of passage, for example Sweet Sixteen parties, Quinceanera, and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, popularly mark a minor's passage from childhood into young adulthood at different ages even though the celebrant remains a minor.

Appellant contends section 288.4's use of two different words - children and minor - matters because it advances important societal interests. The statute's requirement that an abnormal or unusual sexual interest in children motivates the offending adult draws the law's particular sanction, and law enforcement's special attention, to pedophiles, who are adults sexually attracted to prepubescent children. The statute's focus on sexual interest in children carves out, appellant contends, a subcategory smaller than all minors because of the horrific harm pedophiles inflict when they prey on sexually immature younger minors. By defining children, as the court instructed here, as anyone under 18 years old, the court abolished the difference between children and minors, making the two groups exactly the same. In doing so, appellant contends, the court erroneously removed from the jury's consideration the factual question of whether appellant's sexual interest in the minor "Taylorgurl," who purported to be 14 years old, was motivated by an interest in children as section 288.4 requires.

Ordinarily, we must interpret different words in a statute to mean different things. (Scottsdale Ins. Co. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 890, 902; Kuhs v. Superior Court (1988) 201 Cal.App.3d 966, 973.) But, if a proposed interpretation results in absurd results, we must reject the interpretation in favor of one that fulfills the Legislature's purpose. (People v. Broussard (1993) 5 Cal.4th 1067, 1071; People v. Pieters (1991) 52 Cal.3d 894, 898-899.) The Legislature's "intent prevails over the ...

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