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Joseph Kalbfell, a 54-year-old Salem, Ohio man is awaiting the verdict in his trial for importuning a minor for sexual activity. Prosecutors allege that Kalbfell offered to perform oral sex on a 12-year-old boy. In addition to the now 14-year-old boy, other witnesses testified that a man believed to be Kalbfell also made lewd comments to three young girls and another young boy.
In the charged offense, the boy claimed he was pushing his bicycle when a man in a gray van commented on his posterior. The boy responded with a derogatory comment and the man then allegedly offered to perform oral sex on the boy. The boy repeated the derogatory term and the man drove away. Kalbfell denies soliciting the boy and told police the boy made up the story against him because Kalbfell refused to give him a cigarette.
Ohio’s Importuning Laws
The state of Ohio has strict laws regarding the importuning (solicitation) of minors for sexual activity. The criminal statute prohibiting importuning creates separate offenses based on the age of the alleged minor victim and the relative age of the alleged offender. It clearly says that “[n]o person shall solicit a person who is less than thirteen years of age to engage in sexual activity with the offender, whether or not the offender knows the age of such person.”
The statute prohibits the solicitation of a minor age 13, 14 or 15 years old for sexual conduct when the alleged offender is 18 years old or older and is at least four years older than the minor. Whether the alleged offender knew the minor’s age is irrelevant. When the minor is age 16 or 17 and the alleged offender is 18 years old or older (and at least four years older than the minor), the alleged offender must have at least recklessly disregarded the minor’s age.
The Ohio legislature clearly structured the statute to only criminalize sexual conduct involving very young minors and when the relative age difference is such that the minor may not be in full control of the situation. What the statute does not criminalize is sexual activity involving two consenting teenagers 13 and older as long as the age difference is not four years or more.
The consequences for importuning a minor of any age are serious. Even a first offense involving a minor under 13 is a third degree felony and “there is a presumption that a prison term [between nine and 36 months] shall be imposed.” If the alleged offender “previously has been convicted of a sexually oriented offense or a child-victim oriented offense,” the offense becomes a felony of the second degree carrying a mandatory prison sentence of two to eight years.
Importuning a minor 13 or older is a felony of the fifth degree and a prison term of six to 12 months is presumed on a first offense. If the alleged offender “previously has been convicted of a sexually oriented offense or a child-victim oriented offense,” the offense is a fourth degree felony with a mandatory prison term of six to 18 months.