Trial begins for first of 20 men arrested in State Patrol sex sting operation
A man caught in an undercover internet sex sting operation last December was engaging in fantasy and role-playing and knew he likely wasn’t speaking with a child, a defense attorney for the man told the jury during opening statements Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court.
“It was fantasy. And it was fantasy created by the police,” said public defense attorney Stephen Jackson.
Marc Vincent Archer, 60, of Bellingham is accused of attempted second-degree child rape and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
Archer was one of 20 Whatcom and Skagit county men arrested by the Washington State Patrol in operation “Net Nanny,” a sting that targeted internet predators attempting to solicit sexual contact with minors.
Archer’s trial is the first of the cases to be heard, and is expected to last several days. The other 19 men’s trials have been tentatively set for dates in March, April, May and June.
Jackson said Archer “lives a life of sexual fantasy.” In real life, Archer is a handyman who does house chores, but online will tell others he’s up for any sexual venture, Jackson said.
Jackson said people lie about their age, gender and who they are online, and oftentimes, Archer engages in role-playing while chatting with others. He said Archer responded to the ad that Washington State Patrol posted on Craigslist, but, as has happened many times before, the ad was fake.
“There was no teenager at the other end of the line, it was a police officer. But more importantly, Marc is going to tell you that this was fantasy. It is preposterous to him that a 13-year-old would be looking for sex from a 60-year-old online,” Jackson said. “I’m confident that when you hear all the evidence in this case, you’ll agree this was fantasy. This was role-play.”
Prosecuting attorney Brandon Waldron said from Archer’s first email it was clear his intentions were to meet an individual for sex.
“The evidence in this case will show that this is all about the defendant — what he said, what he did and what he intended to do,” Waldron said.
Waldron said after the undercover deputy said they were a 13-year-old boy, Archer responded by sending a naked picture of himself. Archer also made a comment about how he’s never had sex with someone as young as this boy, he said.
The prosecutor said it was Archer, not the undercover deputy, who initiated the conversation about meeting up for sex. It was obvious the individual on the other end of the conversation was a child, especially after the numerous references to the boy’s mother, Waldron said.
Waldron said Archer communicated with what he thought was a minor, he intended to have sex with a child and took a substantial step to make that happen.
“It’s obvious from these communications what the defendant’s intentions are, and that’s to have sex with this child. He does this through repeated, explicit communications and explicit descriptions of what sort of sexual conduct those two are going to engage in when they meet up,” Waldron said. “The evidence in this case will be pretty straightforward. It’s important to focus on the defendant’s statements, his actions and his intentions. … It’s his words and his actions that will show you he’s guilty of these two crimes.”
Issues of entrapment
About a week before the trial began, Archer’s defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds of entrapment or outrageous governmental conduct.
In the motion, Jackson argued the case should be dismissed because undercover deputies created the situation for a crime to occur when no situation previously existed and repeatedly engaged in contact with Archer over the span of two days, according to court records.
In response to the motion, the prosecuting attorney said the undercover deputies’ actions did not amount to entrapment.
Archer took a substantial step toward committing the crime when he showed up to meet what he thought was a 13-year-old boy, Waldron argued. The state is only required to prove that Archer had intent to have sex with a child, took a substantial step to do so and believed the person he was meeting was a teenage boy, according to the motion.
In a separate motion, Waldron argued that police have previously used deceitful tactics to gain information and evidence and does not require dismissing an entire case. There was nothing illegal about law enforcement conducting this sting, like it has done others before, and the undercover deputies were attempting to prevent crime from happening, the records state.
“These sex offenses against children have been committed and are no doubt continuing to be committed through an internet medium completely unavailable to law enforcement without the use of operations such as these,” the records state.
The actions of the undercover deputies involved were “necessary to affect a substantial and legitimate law enforcement purpose: the prevention of sex offenses against minor children,” according to the motion.
Waldron further argued that entrapment can only be used as an affirmative defense, not to dismiss a case before it goes to trial. In entrapment issues, the defendant has to admit to the charges, and claim that law enforcement tricked them into committing it, rather than denying involvement in the charges altogether, according to the records.
Ultimately, the judge sided with the prosecution and trial began.
Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt