On an unusually cold Monday night in April 2015, Jessica* had a clandestine—and blindfolded—sexual encounter with an old high school friend she’d been chatting with on Facebook.
Or so she thought.
The man who showed up at Jessica’s home in Bussey, Iowa, restrained her with handcuffs as soon as he arrived, and left before she ever saw his face. Afterward, he stopped responding to her text messages—and deactivated his Facebook account. When she finally reached her old high school friend, he had no idea what she was talking about. He hadn’t spoken to her in years, and he hadn’t been to her house.
Twenty-year-old Michael Kelso-Christy was convicted in late November 2015 after police found that he’d been posing as a former classmate to solicit nude photographs from women, including Jessica, who had all gone to the same high school, according to the Des Moines Register.
He was found guilty of second-degree burglary and sentenced to 10 years in prison after his fingerprints were reportedly recovered from Jessica’s house. But Kelso-Christy’s appeals also led to questions about the legal definitions of sexual abuse, consent, and fraud.
Namely, Iowa’s Supreme Court considered: “Does obtaining consent to a sex act by impersonating another person render an otherwise consensual sex act ‘against the will’ under Iowa sex abuse statutes?”
On Friday, the court upheld Kelso-Christy’s conviction in a 4-2 opinion, ruling that Jessica could not have legally consented to a sexual encounter with him while she believed he was someone else.
The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed the same opinion from the lower courts, which found that Kelso-Christy went into Jessica’s home with the “specific intent” to commit sexual abuse.
“Consent to engage in a sexual act with one person is not consent to engage in the same act with another actor,” Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady said in the ruling. “When Kelso-Christy entered [Jessica]’s home, he knew that [she] intended to have a sexual encounter with another man, but not with him.
“Kelso-Christy knew [Jessica] wished to have sex with someone else and simply decided that fact gave him license to proceed, regardless of [her] actual feelings or preferences,” Cady continued. “Because it has long been the law in Iowa that consent to sex with one man cannot imply consent to sex with another, Kelso-Christy could not have believed [Jessica] consented to a sexual encounter with him.
“The identity of a sexual partner is no mere collateral matter. Women, and men, must be free to decide, on their own terms, who their sexual partners will be,” he concluded.
*Name has been changed to protect identity.