Criminal Law





Based on the peculiar circumstances of this case and the applicable Arizona Kidnapping Laws, the Arizona superior Court is most likely to find Mr. Benjamin Chang not guilty of kidnapping Craig Pelton, as I will demonstrate in this opinion. 

Under the Arizona Kidnapping Law, Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-1304, a person is deemed to have kidnapped another if they knowingly restrained that other person with the intent to, inter alia, hold them for ransom, as a shield or hostage. 

In the leading case of State v. Latham, the Appellant challenged his conviction of among other offences, kidnapping of a woman.  His averment was that the prosecution had not adduced sufficient evidence, during the trial, to demonstrate that he had restrained the movement of his victim. He further contended that he could not have kidnapped the victim as he did not move her from her house to the alleged confinement.

While dismissing Latham’s appeal and affirming his conviction, the Court of Appeal expressed the view that the offence of kidnapping, within the meaning of the Statute, does not require an accused person to have physically moved a victim from one place to another. The Court further held that use of intimidation, threats or deception by an accused person could satisfy the Statute’s absence-of-consent element. Consequently, the Court found that Latham kidnapped the victim when he, by his threat to kill the victim, caused her to leave the house and drive to the credit union to get money. 

Turning to the facts of this case, there is no doubt that Mr. Pelton was confined in the basement room. However, there is no nexus between his confinement and the conduct of Mr. Chang. Unlike Latham (supra), Mr. Chan neither physically took Mr. Pelton into the said, neither did he threaten, deceive, or otherwise cause Mr. Pelton to enter into the basement room. In absence of those crucial elements, it follows that Mr. Chang cannot be said to have kidnapped Mr. Pelton. The fact that Mr. Chang rigged fireworks is of no legal consequence, as he did so at a birthday celebration and did not intend to harm Mr. Pelton.  

The foregoing notwithstanding, the prosecution could attempt to demonstrate Mr. Chang’s intention to kidnap Mr. Pelton, by relying on Greendale 7’s theory that Mr. Chang hired a “doppel-dean-er” to impersonate Mr. Pelton and the fact that Mr. Chang had access to the video monitoring the basement room to show, and as such, he knew or he ought to have known of Mr. Pelton’s confinement. The prosecution could also argue that based on Latham (supra), Mr. Chang used deception to trap Mr. Pelton by sending him to the basement to check on a broken pipe, hence Mr. Chang’s actions meet the lack-of-consent element of the crime.

Weighing the above rival arguments, it emerges that most of the evidence that the prosecution seeks to rely on will be speculative, and might not prove all the elements of the alleged crime. Accordingly, the Court will most likely acquit Mr. Chang. 


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