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State v. Holloway

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 1, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Christopher Lee Holloway, Appellant.

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and

          Mark A. Ostrem, Olmstead County Attorney, Jennifer D. Plante, Assistant Olmsted County Attorney, Rochester, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Max A. Keller, Lexie D. Stein, Keller Law Offices, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Edwin W. Stockmeyer, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Attorney General.

          Caroline S. Palmer, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

          Lillehaug, J., Took no part, Thissen, J.

         SYLLABUS

         1. A defendant does not have a substantive due process right to assert a mistake-of-age defense when charged with engaging in sexual penetration or sexual conduct with a 14-year-old child in violation of Minnesota Statutes §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b) (2016).

         2. Minnesota Statutes §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b), do not violate equal protection under the federal and state constitutions by limiting a mistake-of-age defense to actors who are no more than 120 months older than the complainant.

         3. Minnesota Statutes §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b), are general intent crimes.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          LILLEHAUG, Justice.

         Appellant Christopher Lee Holloway was charged with third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for engaging in sexual penetration and sexual contact with J.D., a 14-year-old boy. Before trial, Holloway brought a motion to declare Minnesota Statutes §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b) (2016), unconstitutional. These provisions prohibit, respectively, sexual penetration and sexual conduct where "the complainant is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 24 months older than the complainant." Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b); Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(b) (applying to actors "more than 48 months older than the complainant"). The statutes provide a mistake-of-age defense, but only to actors who are "no more than 120 months older than the complainant." Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b).

         Before trial, Holloway brought a motion to declare the statutes unconstitutional, arguing that, by preventing him from asserting a mistake-of-age defense, they violated the guarantees of substantive due process and equal protection under the federal and state constitutions. The district court denied Holloway's motion, and a jury convicted him on both counts. The court of appeals affirmed Holloway's conviction, holding that the statutes did not violate substantive due process or equal protection, and that the statutes did not impose strict liability. State v. Holloway, 905 N.W.2d 20, 29 (Minn.App. 2017).

         We affirm.

         FACTS

         On December 21, 2014, Rochester police responded to a phone call from the mother of J.D.-a 14-year-old boy-after she found J.D. in bed with appellant Christopher Lee Holloway, a 44-year-old man. J.D. and Holloway were naked, and Holloway fled after being discovered. J.D. was taken to the hospital, where he told police that he had met Holloway on "Grindr," a dating application on his cell phone. J.D. told police that he and Holloway had exchanged text messages on Grindr for several hours, and that Holloway then asked J.D. if he could come over. Holloway came to J.D.'s mother's house in the middle of the night. In J.D.'s bedroom, Holloway and J.D. engaged in anal and oral sex. Officers later obtained a warrant to search Holloway's cell phone, and this search produced evidence that (1) J.D. and Holloway had also engaged in sexual acts on December 20, and (2) while messaging on Grindr, J.D. had told Holloway that he was 18 years old.[1]

         Respondent State of Minnesota charged Holloway with two counts- (1) third-degree criminal sexual conduct for "engag[ing] in sexual penetration with . . . [a] victim who is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age," Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b); and (2) fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for "engag[ing] in sexual contact with . . . [a] victim, being at least 13 but less than 16 years of age," Minn. Stat. § 609.345, subd. 1(b). Each statute provides a mistake-of-age defense only to actors who are "no more than 120 months older than the complainant." Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b). For all other actors, "mistake as to the complainant's age shall not be a defense." Minn. Stat. §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b).

         Before trial, Holloway-being 30 years older than J.D.-brought a motion to declare sections 609.344, subdivision 1(b), and 609.345, subdivision 1(b), unconstitutional because they prevented him from asserting a mistake-of-age defense. The district court denied Holloway's motion, concluding that the statutes violated neither substantive due process nor equal protection. The trial proceeded, and the jury found Holloway guilty on both counts.

         Holloway appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed his conviction. Holloway, 905 N.W.2d at 22. First, the court relied on State v. Wenthe, 865 N.W.2d 293 (Minn. 2015), to conclude that the statutes did not unconstitutionally impose strict liability. Holloway, 905 N.W.2d at 24. Second, the court concluded that, applying rational-basis review, "Holloway's substantive due process rights were not violated by his inability to raise a mistake-of-age defense." Id. at 26. Third, applying Minnesota's rational-basis test, the court concluded that Holloway's equal protection claim failed. Id. at 27.

         We granted Holloway's petition for review.

         ANALYSIS

         Holloway raises three issues for us to decide. Each concerns the constitutionality of Minnesota Statutes §§ 609.344, subd. 1(b), 609.345, subd. 1(b).

         Section 609.344, subdivision 1(b), makes it a crime to engage in "sexual penetration"[2] if:

[T]he complainant is at least 13 but less than 16 years of age and the actor is more than 24 months older than the complainant. In any such case, if the actor is no more than 120 months older than the complainant, it shall be an affirmative defense, which must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, that the actor reasonably believes the complainant to be 16 years of age or older. In all other cases, mistake as to the complainant's age shall not be a defense. Consent by the complainant is not a defense . . . .

Minn. Stat. § 609.344, subd. 1(b). Section 609.345, subdivision 1(b), is identical in all relevant parts, except that it prohibits unlawful "sexual contact."[3]

         Holloway first argues that his right to substantive due process was violated because these statutes prevent him from raising a mistake-of-age defense. Second, Holloway argues that his right to equal protection was violated because the statutes permit an actor "no more than 120 months older than the complainant" to raise a mistake-of-age defense, but prevent him from raising that same defense. Third, he argues that ...


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