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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Former Spokane chef faces up to life in prison following Richland sex sting

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 22, 2018

Longtime Spokane chef Jonathan P. Holden, 44, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple child pornography charges. He’s shown talking with attorney Caleb DiPeso during a February hearing in Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick. (Bob Brawdy / Tri-City Herald)
Longtime Spokane chef Jonathan P. Holden, 44, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple child pornography charges. He’s shown talking with attorney Caleb DiPeso during a February hearing in Benton County Superior Court in Kennewick. (Bob Brawdy / Tri-City Herald)

A longtime Spokane chef is facing up to life in prison if convicted on federal charges that he enticed two girls, ages 13 and 15, into making explicit videos and tried to do the same with a third. The girls live in Las Vegas, Atlanta and Houston.

Jonathan P. Holden, 44, who was one of the original chefs at Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops, was arrested in February in Richland. According to court records, Holden put a post on Craigslist offering a sex act. A detective, who posed as a 13-year-old girl, responded to the post, and Holden was arrested the same day when he arrived at the agreed meeting place expecting to find the girl.

“The evidence against (Holden) demonstrates that he has engaged in extensive and longstanding solicitation of minors across the country for sex, including soliciting and receiving child pornography, on numerous occasions,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Herzog wrote.

Once charged with attempted rape of a child in state court, federal investigators obtained information from Holden’s electronic devices. That evidence led to a six-count federal indictment on June 20 charging Holden with two counts of production of child pornography, one count of attempted production and possession of child pornography.

Holden’s “communications with these girls are among the most disturbing exchanges one can imagine an adult having with a child,” Herzog wrote, “including … (Holden) engaging in graphic rape fantasies and requesting that the minors engage in, and record, acts of urination, bestiality, and myriad sexual acts.”

Holden is scheduled to appear Thursday in Richland before U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza Jr.

Andrea George, executive director of the Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, will argue at that hearing for Holden’s release pending his trial.

“Under the bail statute, Mr. Holden is entitled to release,” George said. “He meets all criteria. He is not a risk of flight, nor is he a danger to the community with conditions that the court can impose.”

Newspaper archives show Holden has been a chef in Spokane dating to the 1998 opening of Spencer’s for Steaks and Chops. He’s also worked a stint (2011 to 2015) at Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar and most recently was employed as the Northwest regional culinary manager for the Rich Products Corp.

Court records show Holden told investigators he has been cheating on his wife for 17 years and has included observations of his own children in messages with strangers as he sought new sexual encounters.

In court records, Herzog wrote that Holden posted advertisements seeking sex some 14 times in Spokane or Coeur d’Alene. He’s also made similar posts in Portland; Seattle; Buffalo, New York; Phoenix; Denver; Yakima; Anchorage, Alaska; Boise; Billings and the Tri-Cities.

“This conduct demonstrates that everywhere (Holden) goes, he engages in the same kind of conduct for which he was arrested in this case,” Herzog wrote. “Essentially, he is a danger to male and female children in every community he is in.”

Herzog noted Holden is facing more than five years in prison for the attempted rape charge in state court. He is now facing from 15 years to up to life in prison if convicted on the federal charges, which could provide motivation for him to flee prosecution if he is released, Herzog said.

The federal case started Feb. 6 when Holden posted to Craigslist offering “no-strings attached sexual encounter,” Herzog wrote.

Kennewick Police Detective William Dramis responded to Holden’s post and wrote: “wow that sounds fun. age no mater (sic)?”

Holden replied: “Not a problem for me. What time are you looking for and what part of town are you on?” according to court records.

After a lengthy colloquy, Holden and the “girl,” who made it clear she was 13, agreed to meet at an Arby’s restaurant in Richland. Law enforcement responded, but Dramis, again posing as the girl, wrote Holden telling him that she was scared and instead wanted to meet by a nearby boat dock.

Holden “went to the bathroom by the boat dock, and the officers arrested him without incident,” Herzog wrote.

Under questioning, Holden admitted to corresponding with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl. He “also said that earlier that day he had replied to a post by an adult male and had met that person for oral sex,” Herzog wrote.

When authorities searched Holden’s electronic devices, they found he had performed Google searches for “undercover stings richland wa” and “sex stings richland wa.” Those searches led Holden to several articles from the Tri-City Herald about operation NetNanny, in which 26 people were arrested and charged for contacting what they thought were young girls.

“The United States submits that these searches demonstrate just how strong and undeterrable (Holden’s) sexual interest in children is: he went to meet a purported 13-year-old at Arby’s, and then the boat dock, despite his own strong suspicions that he was going to be caught,” Herzog wrote. Holden “is a predator around whom no child will ever truly be safe.”

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