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Massachusetts Attempted Rape Of A Child Conviction Reversed After Supreme Judicial Court Finds Insufficient Evidence

Last Friday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversed a conviction for Attempted Rape of a Child. The facts of the case, Commonwealth v. Kerry Van Bell are as summarized as follows:

The defendant was the target of a sting investigation. An undercover police officer posed as a prostitute offering her foster child for sexual services to Van Bell. The officer called the defendant. The two agreed to meet. The officer was supposed to bring with her the child. The meeting transpired at a convenience store. No child was present. The officer asked for some money. The defendant refused to pay without seeing the child. Detailed negotiations followed. The office gave the child’s location and a fee of two hundred dollars was negotiated. Backup officers were then contacted and the defendant was arrested as he was driving out of the parking lot of the convenience store. Van Bell admitted to police that he had negotiated to have sex with a five year old girl. He was convicted of several crimes, one of which was Attempted Rape of a Child.

Van Bell appealed his conviction to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The conviction was reversed. The Court held that the prosecution failed to present sufficient evidence to show the Van Bell engaged in an “overt act”, an element of the Crime of Attempt in Massachusetts. To be convicted of an Attempt in Massachusetts the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt 1) specific intent, 2) an overt act and 3) nonachievement of the crime. An overt act must “come near enough to the accomplishment of the substantive offence to be punishable.” In this case the overt act was not legally established by the district attorney. Here is some of the reasoning. The defendant had never seen the child. He did not know the exact location of the child. He never followed the officer to the child’s location and he never paid for the services. To satisfy this aspect of the statute there is a need to prove that the defendant was very near to the actual commission of the crime.


The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman has been successful appealing cases where defendants had been convicted of crimes including the crime of murder. If you have been Convicted of a Crime in Massachusetts you should not give up hope. Call a Massachusetts Appeals Lawyer to see if what possibilities might exist for you to get your conviction vacated. We can be reached at 617-263-6800 or you can contact us online.