(CN) - A Oregon man who gave cash and cigarettes to his daughter and her friend in exchange for sex is not guilty of "compelling prostitution", the 9th Circuit ruled.
Kelly Vosgien pleaded guilty in 2006 in state court to rape, sodomy, sexual abuse and compelling prostitution, but later sought habeas relief from his 55-year sentence based on his "actual innocence" to the latter charge.
Though he had admittedly traded money and cigarettes for sex with his daughter and her friend, Vosgien argued on appeal that Oregon case law in the meantime had determined that a conviction of compelling prostitution required the procurement of sex for a third party. Vosgien noted that he had sought sex only for himself.
A judge rejected Vosgien's claims, as did the Oregon Court of Appeals and the Oregon Supreme Court. Vosgien then took the issue to federal court, but his petition fell outside the one-year statute of limitations for habeas relief.
The federal appeals court reversed dismissal on Thursday, finding that the lateness of Vosgien's habeas petition must be excused because he is actually innocent.
"The charges against Vosgien ... were that he bribed his daughter in order to procure sexual favors for himself," Judge William Fletcher wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. "Respondent concedes that Vosgien cannot, as a legal matter, have committed the crime of compelling prostitution based on the facts under which he was convicted."
The ruling does not, however, open a "gateway" for Vosgien to challenge his convictions for rape, sodomy and sexual abuse, the panel found.