Former Lynden city councilman charged with child rapes

A longtime Lynden city councilman was charged with sexual abuse of a teenage boy Thursday, June 2.

Charging papers allege Jay DeWayne Van Lant, 62, met up with a 15-year-old boy to engage in oral sex after the teen posted an ad on Craigslist last year.

In the ad the boy posted a picture of his genitalia. He claimed to be 18. His family discovered sexual texts and emails in May. One of the people who responded was Van Lant, who sent a picture of his penis, according to the charges.

Van Lant served three terms as a Lynden city councilman from 1985 to 1997.

The boy and Van Lant agreed over email to meet in early December. The charges state they had oral sex in Van Lant’s van in a Whatcom Transportation Authority parking lot in Lynden. The boy recalled three other times he engaged in sex acts with Van Lant, at the man’s home on Garden Drive.

In the latest incident in January, the boy reported, a second teen took part in the sexual acts. Police are trying to identify that teen, to determine if he’s under the age of consent.

A Lynden police detective, Lee Beld, used the boy’s email account to arrange a meeting with Van Lant at the library Friday, May 27. Van Lant showed up, and Beld informed him they needed to go to the police station.

According to the charges, at the station Van Lant corroborated much of the boy’s report: They met over Craigslist, they engaged in oral sex, and a second teen was involved once. But he said he believed the boys were 16. He was booked into jail that afternoon.

County prosecutors charged him Thursday with three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. More charges could be filed as the investigation moves forward, said Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn.

Bail was set at $5,000 this week. He remained in jail Thursday.

This is the second time Van Lant has been charged with criminal sexual misconduct.

Six years ago he worked as a WTA bus driver. One day in late 2010, he told a passenger on a WTA route that he had a “buddy” who would pay $50 to perform oral sex on him.

Van Lant and the man, age 32, were the only people on the bus, but security cameras caught the exchange on video.

“Fifty bucks is fifty bucks,” Van Lant told the man.

The man reported the conversation to police. Van Lant admitted to making the offer, saying it was “me being stupid.” He was arrested, fired from WTA, and put on administrative leave from his other job, as a bus driver for Lynden Christian Schools.

Van Lant pleaded guilty in 2011 to attempting to promote prostitution in the second degree. In that case Superior Court Judge Steven Mura gave him a suspended sentence of one year in jail and 80 hours of community service.

As a city councilman Van Lant voted to relax a law that required a permit for public dancing, a debate that brought national attention to the famously conservative town.

Lynden businesses have a long tradition of closing on Sundays. In the early ’90s as chairman of the Trade and Tourism committee, Van Lant opposed a proposal to turn the tradition into an enforceable ban. (It didn’t pass.)

Van Lant lost his council seat in 1997, when he took in just 31.8 percent of the vote.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb