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Appeals Court Overturns Online Sex Conviction

September 29, 2000

WOODLAND HILLS — in a decision that may make it more difficult to police the Internet, a state court of appeal Thursday overturned the conviction a Woodland Hills man for soliciting sex with a girl in an online chat room.

"Oh my God, I'm so happy!" said the defendant, Aidin Ghaffari, now 24. "The truth came out."

The "victim," who was identified on the Internet as a 13-year-old, was an undercover FBI agent.

"While we are repulsed by [Ghaffari's] attempt to set up a meeting with a 13-year-old virgin for the purpose of having sex," the justices of the Second Appellate District wrote, "we see no communication by [him] even coming close to 'harmful matter.' Making plans to meet and perhaps 'have sex,' although certainly reprehensible, is not the same thing as describing or depicting sexual conduct."

Ghaffari, who was 22 when convicted, "will no longer be a registered sex offender," said his lawyer, James E. Blatt. He was convicted of sending "harmful matter" to a minor and sentenced to three years' probation and time served.

Prosecutors declined comment. Deputy Atty. Gen. Russell A. Lehman said he has not decided whether to appeal.

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