Crime

20 were arrested in a December sex sting. Here's how the jury decided the first case.

Trial begins for first of 20 men arrested in State Patrol sex sting operation

Opening statements by the state and defense in the trial of Marc Archer on Tuesday, March 20, in Bellingham. Archer is charged with attempted second-degree rape of a child and attempted communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
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Opening statements by the state and defense in the trial of Marc Archer on Tuesday, March 20, in Bellingham. Archer is charged with attempted second-degree rape of a child and attempted communication with a minor for immoral purposes.

After deliberating for roughly 45 minutes, a jury this week found a man caught last December in an undercover internet sex sting operation guilty of attempting to meet a child for sex.

Marc Vincent Archer, 60, of Bellingham, was found guilty of attempted second-degree child rape and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. He is facing anywhere from 6 ½ years to life in prison, and, if ever released, will have to register as a sex offender.

Archer’s sentencing date has not yet been set.

“Obviously there was a lot of work done by law enforcement in this case and I think everyone involved felt that the verdict reached by the jury was just and was the right result,” prosecuting attorney Brandon Waldron said.

Defense attorney Stephen Jackson said these cases are difficult to defend.

“They’re not easy trials for anyone involved. There were parts of the case that we felt we had a strong defense that he was not going to meet with someone who was underage,” defense attorney Stephen Jackson said. “The jury made a decision, and they did not believe our defense.”

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.

Undercover detectives posted ads on Craigslist advertising for meetups of a sexual nature. After the men responded, the detectives would pose as young teenagers or as parents offering up their fictional children — some as young as 6 years old — for sexual contact.

The operation generated hundreds of responses, but the men who were arrested traveled to meet the undercover detectives with the intent to engage in sexual activity with them, according to the State Patrol.

The local operation was the 10th sting the State Patrol conducted.

Archer’s case was the first to be heard, and the other 19 men’s trials have been tentatively set for dates in March, April, May and June.

During opening statements at Archer’s trial, Jackson said Archer lived “a life of sexual fantasy,” and that he knew he likely wasn’t speaking with a child.

Jackson said Archer was engaging in role-playing, which he does while chatting with others, and said people often lie about ages, genders and who they are online.

Waldron said it was clear from Archer’s first email that his intentions were to meet someone for sex.

Waldron also said Archer knew he was speaking with a child, because when the undercover detective told Archer they were a 13-year-old boy, Archer responded by sending a naked picture of himself and made a comment about how he had never had sex with someone as young as this boy.

Prior to Archer’s trial, his defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds of entrapment or outrageous governmental conduct.

In the motion, Jackson argued the undercover detectives created a situation for a crime to occur when no situation previously existed and repeatedly engaged in contact with Archer over the span of two days. He argued the undercover detectives violated Craigslist’s terms of use and lured Archer into committing the crime.

In response to the motion, Waldron argued that the undercover detectives’ actions did not amount to entrapment, and that police have previously used deceitful tactics to gain information and evidence and does not require dismissing a case.

Waldron also 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.

Ultimately, the judge sided with the prosecution and trial began.

Denver Pratt: 360-715-2236, @DenverPratt

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