In the traditional way of framing criminal offenses, a crime like attempted rape would be based on at least some physical contact between the suspect and the victim. Typically, the attempt to rape would have failed for some reason and penetration would have been prevented or aborted, thus justifying a charge of attempt. In New York and elsewhere, the modern way of looking at such sex offenses appears to have taken on an added dimension: the authorities have extended the scope of attempt so that there is no need to have physical contact at all.
That of course is the result of the revolutionary kinds of communications that have emerged in the digital age. Attempts are now made on the Internet, without further contact being necessary, according to authorities. In fact, the New York State Police Computer Crime Unit recently charged a 26 year-old male with attempting to arrange a meeting with a girl to have sex with her. The arrangements were allegedly made online.
The meeting never took place — the defendant was apparently arrested before he took any forward steps toward consummating a crime. The police went ahead and charged the man with 2nd degree attempted rape and other sex offenses such as attempting to endanger the welfare of a minor. In New York, 2nd degree rape involves an adult having sexual relations with a person under the age of 15, and it is a felony.
The problem for the prosecution in these kinds of alleged sex offenses may be in the difficulty of proving criminal intent under New York law. For example, no one really knows the age, or even the gender, of the other person in such communications. Even the trading of photos can be bogus by one or both of the parties. The defendant in this case may have a viable defense along those lines, accentuating that nothing occurred, no steps were taken to engage in the meeting, and everything prior to that was imaginary at best.
Source: mychamplainvalley.com, “NYSP Arrest Man Accused of Attempted Rape After Online Investigation”, Joe Gullo, Jan. 8, 2015