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Law Student Can’t Beat Rap for Craigslist Ad

CHICAGO (CN) - A law student who posted "Sell me your teenage daughter" on Craigslist failed to show that he was unfairly convicted, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Harry McMillan had been in his second year of law school at Southern Illinois University when posted the ad in question on Craigslist.

An undercover officer answered and arranged a meeting at a movie theater with someone he said was his daughter.

McMillan arrived at the theater to meet the undercover officer and "the daughter," played by a female worker in a state agency.

When the woman went to the rest room, McMillan asked for the nude pictures of her that he had requested. The officer handed him an envelope and McMillan was arrested when he attempted to open it.

At trial, McMillan claimed he had posted the ad to lure a child molester whom he could confront. McMillan claimed that he himself was a victim of childhood sexual abuse and wanted to ask the molester questions pertinent to his own experience.

McMillan's claims didn't persuade the jury, which convicted him after a three-day trial.

He was sentenced to 11 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a $500 fine for knowingly persuading or enticing a minor to engage in criminal activity.

On appeal, McMillan said the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in failing to evaluate certain evidence presented at trial.

A three-judge panel in Chicago ruled that the evidence, which mainly consisted of emails between McMillan and the undercover cop, was sufficient.

"The most damning is when McMillan emails 'Maybe she'd like to see a pic of my cock,'" Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the federal appeals court. "The jury may have understood this as McMillan's (misguided) effort to entice the girl directly with the picture."

McMillan's strongest contention was the admission into evidence of a simultaneous email thread that McMillan was having with a girl named "Kellie," who was in reality another fictional character portrayed by the undercover cop.

The appeals court ruled that even if such evidence was entered improperly, it did not affect the verdict. The court cited an evidence test, referred to as Rule 403, as the basis of its decision.

"Given the limited number of 'Kellie' emails that the government used and the directness of their relevance, we cannot say that it is clear that the district court would have opted for exclusion had it looked more carefully at Rule 403," Wood wrote. "Indeed, our prediction is the opposite: the 'Kellie' emails refuted McMillan's proffered justification for his actions, and so even though they are prejudicial, the balance tips decisively for admission."

Judges William Bauer and Frank Easterbrook concurred with Wood.

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