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Sex crimes, extortion trial underway in federal court in Missouri

Opening statements were heard recently in the trial of a federal indictment against a 36-year-old man. Authorities allege he engaged in a number of sex crimes in Missouri that involved a 16-year-old girl. He is also charged with extortion and witness tampering.

The purported extortion victim was a 31-year-old man who, according to authorities, met the girl on Facebook after she sent him a "friend" request. Their online communications were said to turn sexual, and the girl reportedly suggested they could meet at her apartment in Kansas City. The man says he believed the girl was 17, the age of legal consent in Missouri. While they engaged in sex at the girl's apartment, the accused man purportedly filmed the tryst secretly from a closet. Prosecutors allege that the man then used the tape to extort money from the man, under the threat of disclosing the tryst publicly and to the man's wife.

Once the prosecution laid out for a federal jury what it seeks to prove during the trial, the attorney for the accused man also addressed the jury. The lawyer did not review the specifics of the man's defense. Instead, she simply requested that the jury remain impartial and require the prosecution to prove allegations set forth beyond a reasonable doubt.

Opening statements before a jury are not evidence. Rather, the statements are typically an outline of what the government intends to prove, followed by a response on behalf of the defendant. Regardless of what is said by the attorneys in addressing a jury, the sex crimes and other criminal allegations cannot result in a conviction unless the government is able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt by competent evidence. Failing that, no conviction can be achieved, no matter what the government has represented at the outset of a trial.

Source: KansasCity.com, "Trial starts in case involving extortion, 16-year-old girl, sex and a hidden camera," Tony Rizzo, Jan. 15, 2013

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