Is Contact Made ''Through Clothing'' Considered by Law ''Sexual Conduct'' ?

In People v. Jones, 175 Ill. 2d 126, 676 N.E.2d 646, 221 Ill. Dec. 843 (1997), the defendant was charged with attempt (aggravated criminal sexual abuse). Defendant, an adult male, while completely undressed and alone in a room with the 16-year-old male victim, asked the boy if he would masturbate defendant and if the boy would allow defendant to masturbate him. the boy declined and left the room. Jones, 175 Ill. 2d at 129-30, 676 N.E.2d at 648. The court held that the defendant's act of exposure, coupled with the request for sexual conduct, constituted a substantial step, notwithstanding the lack of any actual contact between the defendant and the victim. Jones, 175 Ill. 2d at 134, 676 N.E.2d at 650. A conviction for sexual abuse requires "sexual conduct," which, as defined by statute, requires actual contact, although such contact can be made through clothing. 720 ILCS 5/12-16(d), 12-12(e) (West 1996). In Jones, the defendant made no overt move toward sexual contact with the victim. He did not attempt to grab the victim or reach out to touch him in any way. Nevertheless, the court found defendant's conduct was not "mere preparation" but a substantial step toward commission of criminal sexual abuse.