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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Man admits online solicitation

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A former assistant coach at Northwest Christian High School accepted a plea bargain Thursday to a reduced charge and admitted he solicited sex in an online chat room from a Spokane Police detective pretending to be a 13-year-old girl.

Mark D. Crouch, 23, was charged last May with two counts of communication with a minor for immoral purposes. A conviction on those charges would have required Crouch to register as a sex offender for 10 years, deputy Spokane County prosecutor Jared Cordts said.

However, Cordts agreed with Crouch’s attorney, Rob Cossey, to drop one of the charges and allow Crouch to plead guilty to one count of disorderly conduct with sexual motivation.

District Court Judge Vance Peterson ordered Crouch to pay a $500 fine and 90 days in jail, all suspended. He will remain on probation for two years. He won’t be required to register as a sex offender.

“The state takes these cases very seriously,” Cordts said.

He explained that he discussed the case with Detective Jerry Keller. He was the investigator posing as a 13-year-old girl in April when he was contacted by Crouch, who used the chat name “MCPEPPA99.”

“Given the facts, his criminal history and his experience, Keller thought it might be a little harsh regarding the 10-year registry,” Cordts said. “The state does not believe Mr. Crouch will try anything like this again.”

According to court records, Keller was surfing chat rooms in America Online on April 20 when he was contacted by “MCPEPPA99.” Crouch, who played basketball at Northwest Christian, graduated in 1999.

“The subject asked me how old I was. I advised him that I was 13,” Keller wrote. “He advised me he was 23 years old.”

Crouch then wrote Keller that he “loved young girls and asked me if I give oral sex,” Keller wrote.

After exchanging more explicit requests during that chat and another two days later, Keller obtained a search warrant that led him to Crouch.

Cossey said his client was an honor student at Northwest Christian. He later played collegiate sports before returning to his alma mater this year to work as an assistant baseball coach.

Crouch is currently attending graduate school in Tennessee, he said.

“This individual had done a lot with his life,” Cossey said. “There is no excuse for this. I spent a lot of time explaining to him just how close he came to throwing it all away.”

Crouch told Judge Peterson that he realizes how his actions could have altered his life.

“I feel I’m ready to start over and go after my dreams again,” Crouch said in court. “I deeply apologize to everyone who I hurt in this process.”

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