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Did two men actually plan to commit murder and rape?

New Jersey residents may have heard about a criminal case that recently went through a jury trial - the case involved two individuals who are alleged to have traveled through New Jersey and New York discussing the possibility of kidnapping, raping and killing women. While these are definitely disturbing allegations, the critical part of the case is this: the two men never actually kidnapped, raped or killed anyone.

The reports indicate that the two men, one of whom is from Trenton, discussed their plans in great detail. However, the prosecutors in the case have asserted that the men did more than just plan these criminal acts. The prosecutors claim that the men took concrete steps in furtherance of their plans, such as buying a wide variety of instruments that could theoretically be used in the allegedly planned abductions - items like handcuffs and a whip. The men are also alleged to have driven through New Jersey with the goal of identifying potential locations to dump dead bodies.

Despite these troubling allegations, the two men have crafted a sound criminal defense: they didn't actually do anything that was in violation of the law. Their lawyers have told the jury that the two men were simply discussing these different scenarios as part of a sexual fantasy and that they never actually intended to carry out the crimes.

The outcome of this case could have interesting repercussions for many New Jersey residents. The case involves some unique questions: Is it a crime to simply talk about committing criminal acts? Does a person's intention make a difference? Does buying items - legally - like handcuffs or a whip, show a person's true intention to carry out these types of crimes? These questions may have relevance if an accused New Jersey resident ends up in court to defend themselves, and an aggressive legal defense may be able to challenge the prosecution's assumptions head-on.

Source: New Jersey Herald, "Kidnap-rape plot case goes to federal jury in NYC," Jennifer Peltz, March 12, 2014

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