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Watch out, lovers who lie! Sexual assault by deception could become a criminal offense

After New Jersey resident Mischele Lewis discovered the online lover she met had a troubled past, she began pushing for a bill that would make sex by deception illegal.

Mischele Lewis was duped out of $5,000 by a man she loved who wasn't who he said he was. MICHAEL PRONZATO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mischele Lewis was duped out of $5,000 by a man she loved who wasn't who he said he was. MICHAEL PRONZATO / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERRead more

LYING TO GET sex has been going on since Adam ate the proverbial apple.

It will never stop. But wouldn't it be great if there was somewhere that a burned lover could turn to if she discovered that the man who told her he was childless not only had a 10-year-old, but also a pregnant side jawn?

Or if the person they're sleeping with showed them photos of a beautiful home he claimed to own but in reality was living in his parents' basement?

In other words, wouldn't it be great if a woman duped into having sex could have the jerk arrested?

Absolutely, says Mischele Lewis. The 37-year-old suburban-mom-turned-activist is the inspiration behind a bill in New Jersey that would make sexual assault by deception a crime.

I know this is going to make some readers livid, but stay with me: Introduced late last year by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, the bill would make "sexual assault by fraud" a punishable offense. The bill defines it as "an act of sexual penetration to which a person has given consent because the actor has misrepresented the purpose of the act or has represented he is someone he is not."

"I think it's important because trying to deceive anyone for the purpose of sexual gratification is just wrong," Lewis told me last week as we sat on her front porch in Florence Township, N.J. "Every person has the right to knowing consent. And before they consent to be intimate with anybody, they should absolutely know 100 percent who it is that they are being intimate with.

"Whether it's as simple as . . . they slip off their wedding ring and then they engage in a relationship with someone, but the man or woman has no idea that the person they are with is married," she added. "Lying to someone else for any reason is never OK, whether it be [for] a job, a relationship, criminal history, parental history, marital history . . .. When did we become a society that thinks it's completely acceptable to lie to other people on a daily basis and think that's morally OK?"

Several phone calls to Singleton weren't returned late last week.

Should it pass, such a bill would open up a whole realm of possibilities for tricked lovers. But is that what we really want, especially given all the concerns about mass incarceration?

"On the one hand, we want law enforcement to have the law on their side in order to go after sexual predators who try to lure victims into sexual situations through deceit," pointed out Kathleen Bogle, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice at La Salle University. "On the other hand, many people lie to get sex and we may not want to cast too broad of a net in pursuing these situations through criminal law.

"Most people would agree that lying to obtain sex is immoral, but only a fraction of those scenarios should be punishable by criminal law," she added.

She's right about not clogging up the legal system.

But there's such a thing as principle. As Yale law professor Jed Rubenfield wrote in a 2013 edition of the Yale Law Review, "Rape-by-deception is almost universally rejected in American criminal law. But if rape is sex without the victim's consent - as many courts, state statutes and scholars say it is - then sex-by-deception ought to be rape, because as courts have held for a hundred years in virtually every area of the law outside of rape, a consent procured through deception is no consent at all."

Meanwhile, Lewis, whose dating horror story was chronicled in the Daily News last year and later on NBC's "Dateline," is recuperating from the shock of discovering that the man she met on an online dating site back in 2013 was a con artist.

I met her a year ago, just days after Cherry Hill police arrested William Allen Jordan on charges of sexual assault, theft by deception and impersonating a law-enforcement officer. Over coffee at a Starbucks in Mount Laurel, she described how she'd become enmeshed in his tangled web of lies that stretched all the way to England.

Not only had the man she knew as Liam Allen lied to her about his legal name, but instead of being some sort of secret agent of the British government, as he claimed, he had served time in the U.K. for bigamy. He also had failed to register as a sex offender and had been convicted of indecent assault of a minor.

But back when she was falling madly in love, Lewis, a labor and delivery nurse, knew nothing about Jordan's nefarious ways. When she was handing over $5,000 for a phony security clearance, she had no clue that she was just Jordan's latest victim.

In November, he pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception and was ordered to pay restitution. He's currently serving a three-year prison sentence in New Jersey.

As for Lewis, she plans to sell her waterfront home in Roebling, N.J., to get away from the memories she made with Jordan. She's also hoping that Singleton's bill makes it through the legislative process so that it can help others from being duped the way she was.

"Never is it acceptable," Lewis said. "It's wrong every single time, and in a lot of cases illegal what they're doing. In some way, sometime, it's going to catch up."