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State v. Lantz

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

September 20, 2018

STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee,
v.
JAMES MICHAEL LANTZ, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CR2016-153769-001 The Honorable Joseph P. Mikitish, Judge

          Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Joseph T. Maziarz Counsel for Appellee.

          Attorneys for Freedom Law Firm, Chandler By Marc J. Victor Counsel for Appellant

          Judge Jennifer M. Perkins delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe and Judge Peter B. Swann joined.

          OPINION

          PERKINS, JUDGE.

         ¶1 James Michael Lantz appeals his conviction and resulting sentence for child prostitution. He argues that the trial court erred by designating his offense as a dangerous crime against children ("DCAC") and enhancing his sentence pursuant to the DCAC sentencing law because the child victim of the offense was not an actual child but an undercover police officer. In Wright v. Gates, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the definition of a dangerous crime against children generally does not apply to an offense where the "child" is an undercover police officer. 243 Ariz. 118, 121-22, ¶¶ 13, 18 (2017). Although we agree that Wright requires that the DCAC designation be removed, the relevant language of the child prostitution statute nevertheless independently mandates that the DCAC sentencing provisions apply to Lantz's offense.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2 On November 15, 2016, undercover officers conducted a human trafficking sting operation by posting several online advertisements for child prostitution. Lantz responded to one of these advertisements and began a text message conversation with a male detective who was posing as a single mother offering sex with her thirteen-year-old daughter in exchange for a "donation."

         ¶3 After exchanging texts, Lantz asked to speak over the phone and a female detective called him. During that conversation, Lantz requested a photograph of the thirteen-year-old daughter. Two female detectives then posed for a picture, pretending to be mother and daughter. After using a software application to obscure their appearances to some degree, they sent Lantz the photograph. When Lantz received the picture, he noted that the daughter appeared to be older than age thirteen. Explaining that the daughter was nearly fourteen years old, a female detective inquired whether Lantz was still interested, and he assured her that he was.

         ¶4 After establishing some parameters for the sexual encounter, the female detective gave Lantz directions to the sting house. When Lantz arrived, the female detective opened the door and invited him in, and officers arrested him.

         ¶5 The State charged Lantz with one count of child prostitution, a class two felony and DCAC. At trial, Lantz admitted he had solicited prostitution, but claimed he believed he was hiring an adult prostitute who was simply role-playing a child sex fantasy.

         ¶6 The jury found Lantz guilty of child prostitution, expressly finding that the "persona of the minor . . . was under the age of 15." The trial court found the offense was a DCAC and sentenced Lantz to a mitigated term of thirteen years' imprisonment. Lantz timely appealed.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶7 Lantz contends the trial court improperly designated his offense as a DCAC, and therefore incorrectly imposed an enhanced sentence pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 13-705 (2018). Relying on Wright v. Gates, he argues the DCAC sentencing enhancement "does not apply when a defendant commits a crime against a ...


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